New York AG Settles with Auto Dealership over Alleged Deceptive Practices

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.

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CFPB Releases “Know Before You Owe” Auto Initiative

On June 9, the CFPB released an auto loan worksheet designed to help consumers shop for an automobile loan. As part of its Know Before You Owe auto initiative (also known as the Take Control of Your Auto Loan initiative), the online worksheet is intended to help consumers: (i) understand the aggregate amount of the loan – not just the monthly payment – including the interest rate, optional add-ons, and certain fees; (ii) negotiate and compare between loan offers; and (iii) be mindful of how additional financing features, services, or add-ons, such as guaranteed auto protection insurance, extended warranties, and credit insurance, can increase the upfront cost of a loan. In addition to the auto loan worksheet, the CFPB’s Know Before You Owe auto initiative also contains a step-by-step guide designed to help consumers navigate the auto lending process.

The CFPB simultaneously released a report titled “Consumer Voices on Automobile Financing.” The report covers research related to direct and indirect auto financing, but does not address financing offered by “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers or leasing. Read more…

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CFPB’s Latest Monthly Complaint Snapshot Highlights Issues Related to Credit Reporting

On May 24, the CFPB released its latest consumer complaint report. This month’s report highlights complaints related to credit reporting, noting that such complaints made up approximately 143,700 of the 882,800 total complaints that the CFPB has handled as of May 1. The report found, among other things, that: (i) credit reporting remains among the top three products complained about by consumers, with more than 4,500 complaints submitted in April alone; (ii) the three largest U.S. credit reporting companies are also the top three companies offering credit reporting services, accounting for 95% of the credit reporting complaints submitted between December 2015 and February 2016; and (iii) during that same time period, consumers also submitted more than 2,000 complaints involving specialty consumer reporting companies that provide reports in particular areas, including background and employment screening, checking account screening, rental screening, and insurance screening. According to the report, the most common types of credit reporting complaints have included the following: (i) inaccurate information appearing on credit reports, particularly information related to debt collection items and information resulting from identity theft; (ii) difficulty in correcting inaccuracies, including long delays, negative customer service experiences, and failed attempts to have inaccuracies removed; and (iii) the inability to access credit reports online due to overly burdensome identity authentication questions.

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CFPB Monthly Complaint Report Highlights Issues Related to Mortgages

On April 26, the CFPB issued its latest installment of reports covering consumer complaints. According to this month’s report, the CFPB has, as of April 1, handled more than 859,000 complaints across all products, with mortgage complaints accounting for approximately 223,100, making it the second most-complained about product after debt collection. Key findings from the report include the following: (i) approximately 51% of mortgage-related complaints relate to consumers encountering problems when they were having difficulty making payments, such as facing prolonged loss mitigation review processes and receiving conflicting and confusing foreclosure notifications during loss mitigation assistance review; (ii) consumers facing issues involving transfers of their loan to another servicer without being properly informed of the transfers; (iii) loan servicers allegedly providing confusing and contradictory information regarding reinstatement amounts, charges and fees, and interest rates; (iv) loan servicers delaying the release of insurance claim funds allocated to property damages despite consumers having provided all required documentation; and (v) consumers facing prolonged and confusing loan origination processes, resulting in the loss of favorable interest rates and the expiration of rate locks. Consistent with past reports, this month’s issue lists the top 20 most-complained-about companies for mortgage-related complaints, as well as the top ten most-complained-about companies across all financial products. Finally, with more than 118,000 complaints submitted from the state’s consumers as of April 1, the report identifies California as its geographical spotlight, noting that complaints from the state have “generally followed the national trend.”

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CFPB Monthly Complaint Snapshot Highlights Issues Related to Debt Collection

On March 29, the CFPB released its most recent complaint report focusing on complaints related to debt collection. According to the report, as of March 1, 2016, consumers have submitted approximately 834,400 complaints across all products, with debt collection complaints accounting for approximately 219,200 of the complaints. Debt collection complaints highlighted in the report include, but are not limited to: (i) first- and third-party debt collectors attempting to collect on debts that consumers claim they do not owe; (ii) consumers repeatedly receiving calls from debt collectors, sometimes early in their delinquency or during grace periods; (iii) consumers being contacted while at work, with some alleging that collectors made in-person visits to their workplace; (iv) debt collectors not honoring consumers’ requests to cease communications; and (v) debt collectors failing to provide sufficient information to verify debts. Similar to past CFPB-issued complaint snapshots, the report identifies the top 10 most-complained-about companies in regards to all financial products, as well as the top 20 most-complained-about companies for debt collection. Finally, the report identifies Florida as its geographical spotlight, noting that (i) Florida consumers have submitted more than 80,000 complaints as of March 1, 2016; (ii) mortgage-related complaints account for 30% of complaints received from Florida, exceeding the national average by 4%; and (iii) at 24%, debt collection-related complaints submitted by Florida consumers are 2% less than the national average.

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