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By timestaff
January 22, 2011

Baffled by your bank statement? Flummoxed by your financial aid forms? You may have a WonderMark Award winner on your hands!

The WonderMark Awards, bestowed annually by the Center for Plain Language, recognize the most unclear communication materials of the year. Last year’s winner was a form from the Department of Homeland Security, but I think there are some serious contenders for the 2011 title from the personal finance world. Just think of all the deserving nominees: credit card contracts, mortgage applications, investment election paperwork, tax forms, insurance policies, and credit reports, to name a few.

And since candidates can include Web sites, forms, marketing materials and basically any other type of communication, the possibilities are nearly endless. Anyone can nominate a candidate through the Center for Plain Language’s website. (The organization will also announce a ClearMark Award recognizing clear use of language.)

The dearth of clear language from financial institutions is a serious matter. The lack of consumer understanding of mortgage documents and other financial documents contributed to the credit crisis and housing bust that led the country into the most recent financial crisis.

And many believe that the ambiguity was intentional. “For years, banks and mortgage lenders and credit card companies have often used fine print and confusing language and attractive, front-end offers to take advantage of American consumers,” President Obama said in a September speech. The administration has tasked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with forcing financial firms to communicate more clearly. The agency will also create a financial literacy office to help consumers understand financial information.

What’s the most confusing communication you’ve received from your financial institution? Cut and paste it in the comments section or include a link, if you have one.

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