On July 14, the FTC announced the approval of a final consent order against two Ohio-based auto dealers to resolve allegations that they failed to make certain advertising disclosures in violation of the FTC Act, the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA), and the CLA’s implementing Regulation M. Specifically, according to the FTC’s November 2015 complaint, the auto dealers’ lease advertisements (i) failed to disclose, or adequately disclose, that typical consumers would not qualify for advertised terms; and (ii) displayed a monthly payment amount without clearly and conspicuously disclosing terms required by the CLA and Regulation M. Pursuant to the consent order, the auto dealers are prohibited from, among other things, (i) advertising the amount of any payment, or the length or any payment term, without also clearly and conspicuously disclosing all related qualification restrictions, such as those based on the consumer’s credit score; (ii) misrepresenting payment terms; and (iii) advertising payment terms without clearly and conspicuously disclosing terms required by the CLA and Regulation M.
On July 13, the Treasury Department announced that the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) adopted a methodology for monitoring the affordability of auto insurance. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the FIO is authorized to monitor the extent to which affordable personal automobile insurance is made available to traditionally underserved communities and consumers, minorities, and low- and moderate-income (LMI) persons. Pursuant to the new methodology, FIO will calculate affordability by using an affordability index that divides the average annual personal automobile liability premium by the median household income for identified majority-minority or majority-LMI ZIP codes. If the Affordability Index does not exceed to 2%, then FIO will consider personal automobile liability insurance affordable. Finally, to monitor the availability of auto insurance, FIO will obtain and analyze aggregated premium data in addition to using publicly available data through the U.S. Census Bureau.
On June 28, the CFPB released its monthly complaint report focusing on consumer loans, including vehicle loans and leases, installment loans, title loans, and pawn loans. According to the report, of the 906,400 consumer complaints across all products the CFPB has received as of June 1, 2016, approximately 38,500 were in the consumer loans category. Findings regarding consumer loan complaints highlighted in the report include: (i) just over half of consumer loan complaints pertain to vehicle loans, with installment loans following at 31 percent; (ii) consumers most often complain about issues related to servicing the loan, lease, or line of credit; and (iii) additional common consumer loan complaints include encountering problems when shopping for a loan, when taking out a loan, and when consumers are unable to repay a loan.
This month’s report includes a “sub product spotlight” to highlight complaints specific to auto lending, which make up 60 percent of the 38,500 consumer loan complaints the CFPB has received since July 21, 2011. Consumer loan complaints specific to auto lending include, but are not limited to: (i) payment processing issues, such as consumers not having their accounts debited timely and correctly; (ii) confusion over fees and interest rates; (iii) repossession of vehicles without notification; (iv) misleading advertising at “Buy Here Pay Here” dealerships; and (v) insufficient warranty coverage, with consumers alleging that they believed they were required to purchase warranties that did not end up covering basic repairs as they expected. Read more…
On June 21, New York AG Eric Schneiderman settled with a New York-based auto dealership to resolve allegations of deceptive sales and advertising practices. Specifically, AG Schneiderman alleged that the company charged consumers up to $5,000 for warranties and service contracts without their authorization and convinced consumers to purchase and finance vehicles on terms they could not afford, falsely promising to refinance the loans on more favorable terms in the subsequent months. In addition, the AG’s office received a number of consumer complaints alleging that the company (i) engaged in various bait and switch tactics, including crediting consumers for less than previously agreed on vehicle trade-ins; (ii) charged consumers a greater price for a vehicle than promised; (iii) charged consumers a higher interest rate on the auto loan than promised; (iv) falsely promised lower yearly mileage limits for lease contracts; and (v) forged consumer signatures on contracts. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the company must pay restitution ranging from $198 for alleged illegal fee charges to more than $4,000 for unauthorized warranties and services contracts, for a total of more than $101,000 to 119 consumers. The settlement further requires that the company “pay restitution to other consumers who come forward within the next three months and who were subjected to the deceptive and illegal practices uncovered by the investigation, with a cap of $50,000.”
AG’s Schneiderman’s settlement comes after the New York State Police completed a raid and seizure of the company’s business records in May 2012. The company’s finance manager was subsequently arrested for second-degree Scheme to Defraud and third-degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument.
On June 8, Michigan AG Bill Schuette announced that a Michigan court entered a Default Judgment and Final Order for Permanent Injunction against an auto title loan company, several associated alias companies, and the company manager. The Judgment and Order found the defendants in violation of Michigan law for: (i) engaging in consumer lending without requisite authority or license in Michigan; (ii) charging or receiving interest on title loans in excess of 36%; (iii) misrepresenting in communications with borrowers the status of legal action taken or threatened to be taken in violation of Michigan’s Regulation of Collection Practices Act; (iv) engaging in conduct deemed unlawful under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act during the course of soliciting, selling, and collecting upon unauthorized title loans with illegal interest rates; and (v) transacting business in Michigan without a certificate of authority since at least June 28, 2013. Under the court’s judgment, the company is prohibited from, among other things, (i) making loans in Michigan without proper licensure; (ii) making, servicing, or collecting on any title loans sold or issued to certain Michigan consumers; (iii) accepting title loan interest or other payments made by certain Michigan consumers; (iv) engaging in any collection activities on title loans issued by defendants for certain Michigan consumers; (v) asserting a security interest in any vehicles allegedly pledged as security for repayment of a title loan; and (vi) selling or otherwise transferring interest in any motor vehicle associated with a title loan. The company must also pay a total of $2,208,698, $790,050 of which will be paid to the State and $1,418,648 of which is allocated for consumer restitution.