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  • FTC and Florida Attorney General settle with debt relief scammers

    Consumer Finance

    On April 12, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General announced an $85 million settlement with three individuals who allegedly sold fake debt relief services. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in May 2017, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General filed a complaint against the individuals for allegedly violating the FTC Act, the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. According to the complaint, consumers, after collectively paying hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for promised debt-consolidation services marketed by the individuals, discovered their debts were unpaid, their accounts had defaulted, and their credit scores damaged. Under the proposed orders (here and here), all three marketers are restrained and enjoined from “advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, selling” credit repair products and services, debt relief products and services, and financial products and services. The $85 million judgment is held jointly and severally against each of the individuals with a suspended judgment for two if all material assets are surrendered. The judgment for the third individual, considered the ringleader of the operation, is not suspended and the individual is still required to surrender all material assets.

    Consumer Finance Federal Issues State Issues State Attorney General FDCPA Debt Collection FTC

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  • CFPB releases RFI on consumer complaints and inquiries

    Federal Issues

    On April 11, the CFPB released its twelfth (and apparently final) Request for Information (RFI) in a series seeking feedback on the Bureau’s operations. This RFI solicits public comment to assist the Bureau in assessing its handling of consumer complaints and consumer inquiries. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is required to “facilitate the centralized collection of, monitoring of, and response to consumer complaints regarding consumer financial products or services.” According to the RFI, a “consumer complaint” relates to an issue a consumer has with an identifiable entity, whereas a “consumer inquiry” is a consumer request for information from the CFPB regarding a financial product or service, a CFPB action, or the status of a complaint. While the Bureau is seeking feedback on all aspects of its consumer complaints and consumer inquiries processes, the RFI specifically seeks comments related to (i) how the Bureau distinguishes between complaints and inquiries, including if there should be a process for companies to reclassify consumer submissions; (ii) the complaint submission process, including the channels of submission and whether consumers should be allowed to authorize a third-party to submit on their behalf; and (iii) whether the Bureau should develop a process for companies to provide responses to consumer inquiries. The RFI is expected to be published in the Federal Register on April 16. Comments will be due 90 days from publication.

    The CFPB sought information on the publication of complaints in the Consumer Complaint Database and other forms of complaint reporting in an earlier RFI, previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    Federal Issues RFI CFPB Succession Consumer Complaints Consumer Finance

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  • CFPB releases RFI on financial education programs

    Federal Issues

    On April 4, the CFPB released its eleventh Request for Information (RFI) in a series seeking feedback on the Bureau’s operations. This RFI solicits public comment to assist the Bureau in “assessing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of its consumer financial education programs.” Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB develops education programs to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial decisions, and to improve consumers’ financial literacy. The Bureau develops programs for the general public as well as programs designed for special populations. While the Bureau is seeking feedback on all aspects of its financial education initiatives, the RFI specifically seeks comments related to (i) the topics and delivery functions of the programs; (ii) the effectiveness of the programs, including how the Bureau should measure program success; and (iii) how to avoid duplication and improve coordination with other federal agencies. The RFI is expected to be published in the Federal Register on April 9. Comments will be due 90 days from publication.

    Federal Issues RFI CFPB Succession Consumer Finance Consumer Education Dodd-Frank Federal Register

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  • DOJ sues California subprime auto lender for alleged SCRA violations

    Consumer Finance

    On March 28, the DOJ filed a complaint in the Central District of California against a California-based indirect auto lending company (defendant) for allegedly repossessing servicemembers’ vehicles in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The allegations stem from an investigation into the defendant’s practices after an Army Private submitted a complaint to the DOJ in 2016. The DOJ’s investigation concluded that the defendant repossessed the vehicle without obtaining a court order or confirming whether the servicemember was SCRA-protected. According to the DOJ’s complaint, its investigation revealed that the defendant allegedly failed to have policies or practices in place to verify borrowers’ military status before repossessing vehicles. As such, the DOJ believes that the defendant may have repossessed vehicles of other servicemembers without obtaining the necessary court others or verifying military status. The DOJ contends that the defendant’s conduct was “intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of servicemembers.” In addition to monetary damages, the DOJ seeks civil monetary penalties and injunctive relief.

    Consumer Finance DOJ SCRA Servicemembers Auto Finance Repossession

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  • CFPB updates mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide, releases mortgage servicing coverage chart

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 29, the CFPB released version 3.1 of its mortgage servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide. The updated guide supports the implementation of the 2016 Mortgage Servicing Final Rule, including the amendment to the Rule released earlier this month. The Rule replaces the previous single-billing-cycle exemption with a single-statement exemption when servicers transition to providing modified or unmodified periodic statements and coupon books to consumers entering or exiting bankruptcy. See previous InfoBytes coverage here. The Bureau also released a mortgage servicing coverage chart, which summarizes the mortgage servicing rules that will be in effect as of April 19.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgage Servicing Bankruptcy Consumer Finance Regulation X Regulation Z

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  • Tennessee amends interest rate legislation

    Lending

    On March 23, the Governor of Tennessee signed HB 1944, which amends lending provisions of the Tennessee Code Annotated to change the application of interest rates to the amount financed instead of the total amount of the loan with regard to certain loans made by Tennessee industrial loan and thrift companies. The following interest rate requirements under present Tennessee law now apply to the amount financed: (i) under $100, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 18 percent per annum; (ii) between $100 and $5,000, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 30 percent per annum; (iii) greater than $5,000, no interest shall be charged on the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity in excess of a maximum effective rate of 24 percent per annum; and (iv) for open-end credit plans, a maximum effective rate of 24 percent per annum applies to the principal or on the unpaid balance due after maturity. HB 1944 is effective immediately and applies to loans made on or after March 23.

    Lending State Issues Interest Rate Consumer Finance Usury State Legislation

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  • Idaho enacts legislation modifying certain motor vehicle service contract provisions

    State Issues

    On March 19, the Idaho governor signed HB 521, which updates a section of the Idaho Code pertaining to the “Idaho Motor Vehicle Service Contract Act” (the Act) to, among other things, “provide[] for state of Idaho regulation of motor vehicle service contracts.” HB 521 also modifies certain provisions surrounding motor vehicle service contracts by (i) clarifying the definition of a service contract; (ii) providing for service contract reimbursement policy requirements; (iii) setting forth rules associated with the sale of service contracts; (iv) specifying recordkeeping requirements; (v) providing for licensing; (vi) stipulating violation penalties; and (vii) noting that the legislation does not preclude a cause of action under the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. Furthermore, HB 521 notes that the “Idaho Insurance Guaranty Association Act shall not apply to any motor vehicle service contract, mechanical breakdown insurance or motor vehicle service contract liability insurance policy.” The Act is effective July 1.

    State Issues State Legislation Consumer Finance Insurance

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  • Florida updates installment loan repayment terms and allowable delinquency charges

    State Issues

    On March 19, the Florida governor signed SB 386, which amends Florida’s consumer finance law to remove the requirement that installment payments must be made monthly, and updates the allowable charges for delinquencies. Specifically, SB 386 now allows equal, periodic installment loan payments to be made every two weeks, semimonthly, or monthly. This provision does not apply to lines of credit. Additionally, SB 386 provides that a delinquency charge for a payment in default may not exceed $15 for payments due monthly; $7.50 for payments due semimonthly; and $7.50 or $5.00 for payments due every two weeks, depending on the number of payments due within a calendar month. The law is effective July 1.

    State Issues State Legislation Consumer Finance Installment Loans

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  • CFPB and FTC issue annual report on 2017 debt collection activities

    Consumer Finance

    On March 20, the CFPB and the FTC issued an annual report to Congress on the agencies’ collective actions to combat illegal debt collection practices based on their shared enforcement responsibilities under the FDCPA. The report was released pursuant to a 2012 Memorandum of Understanding between the CFPB and the FTC that provides for coordination in enforcement, supervision, and consumer education. According to the report, the agencies’ actions against debt collectors include:

    • CFPB. In addition to handling approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints in 2017, the CFPB reports it resolved one FDCPA enforcement case (previously covered by InfoBytes here) and filed two other complaints alleging FDCPA violations (previously covered by InfoBytes here and here). The Bureau also notes it uncovered a number of actions that the agency’s examiners deemed to be violations of the FDCPA, such as impermissible communications with third parties and implying authorized users are responsible for debt on the account. As for the Bureau’s pending FDCPA rulemaking, the report notes that the CFPB is still considering feedback from stakeholders regarding the July 2016 outline of proposals under consideration.
    • FTC. The agency reports it obtained more than $64 million in judgments based on alleged violations of the FDCPA or the FTC Act and emphasized the FTC’s specific focus on phantom debt actions. In addition to working to educate consumers about their rights with regard to debt collection, the FTC emphasized multiple permanent injunctions, which prevent companies and individuals from working in the debt collection field again. As for research, the agency highlighted its July 2017 Military Consumer Financial Workshop, which covered debt collection as an issue faced by the military community (previously covered by InfoBytes here).

    Consumer Finance CFPB FTC Debt Collection FDCPA

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  • FTC and New York Attorney General announce orders banning debt collection operations from related activities

    Consumer Finance

    On March 22, the New York Attorney General’s office and the FTC announced settlements with the operators of an allegedly abusive debt collection scheme, resolving lawsuits filed in 2015. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to the FTC, the operators and associated companies allegedly violated the FTC Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and New York state laws prohibiting deceptive acts and practices by using abusive language and making false threats that consumers would be arrested or sued in order to collect the supposed debts. The stipulated final orders impose combined judgments of over $48.7 million to be partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets, including more than $1 million in corporate and individual assets. In addition to barring the operators from the debt collection business and from buying or selling debt, the orders further prohibit them from misrepresenting financial products and services or benefiting from consumers’ personal information collected in connection with the challenged practices.

    Consumer Finance FTC State Attorney General Debt Collection FTC Act FDCPA Settlement

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