On September 15, the FTC issued a paper summarizing the insights garnered through its October 2015 “Follow the Lead” workshop on lead generation. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the workshop focused on lead generation issues in the mortgage and education lending space. The FTC paper “detail[s] the mechanics of online lead generation and potential benefits and concerns associated with lead generation for both businesses and consumers.” The paper provides a synopsis of payday lenders’ role in the lead generation industry by describing their use of the “ping tree,” an automated process that enables aggregators to sell consumers’ personal information to lenders or other aggregators. Although the paper acknowledges that lead generators provide potential benefits to consumer, including the ability to offer competitive prices in the mortgage lending space, it never-the-less identifies the following key areas of concern: (i) complexity and lack of transparency surrounding industry policies and processes; (ii) the use of potentially aggressive or deceptive marketing techniques; and (iii) the potential misuse and mishandling of consumers’ personal information in the payday lending space.
OCC Comptroller Curry Addresses Regulatory Concern Related to Fintech Industry; Outlines Possible Fintech Charter
On September 13, OCC Comptroller Curry delivered remarks at the Marketplace Lending Policy Summit, an inaugural event during which policy implications and regulatory concerns prevalent in the marketplace lending industry were discussed. Similar to past reports and remarks about marketplace lending, Curry expressed concern that the underwriting and business models used by the industry have yet to go through a complete credit cycle: “A less favorable credit cycle will test this business in ways it hasn’t yet experienced, and how sources of funding will hold up under stress remains to be seen.” In addition, drawing attention to the “long-term performance” issues related to marketplace lending, Curry posed the following inquiries: (i) whether new credit underwriting technologies and algorithms comply with existing laws and regulations, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act; (ii) whether existing laws, such as the Community Reinvestment Act, should be “amended radically” to ensure that consumers are sufficiently protected against nonbank lenders; (iii) whether an entirely new regulation or law is needed to “protect the public’s interest or prevent risk to the broader financial system”; and (iv) whether innovation itself should be regulated, and, if so, by which primary regulator(s). Notably, Comptroller Curry revealed that the OCC is in the process of developing a potential federal “fintech charter,” a framework that is expected to be released this fall. Comptroller Curry emphasized that, if the OCC grants limited-purpose fintech charters, institutions receiving the charters “will be held to the same strict standards of safety, soundness, and fairness that other federally chartered institutions must meet.”
FTC Seeks Additional Comments Regarding Proposed Research on Consumers’ Experience with the Auto Finance Industry
On September 14, the FTC published its second Federal Register notice regarding a proposed consumer survey designed to provide the FTC with insights into consumer understanding of the process whereby automobiles are purchased and financed through a dealer. The FTC issued its first notice regarding the survey on January 7, 2016. The second notice summarizes industry comments received in response to its first notice. Commenters suggested that the survey include questions addressing such topics as, (i) consumers’ experiences specifically with “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers; (ii) “yo yo financing scams”; and (iii) add-on products or services. The second notice outlines the FTC’s planned methodology for conducting the survey, and identifies the areas on which the consumer interview questions will focus. The FTC estimates that 170 consumers will participate in the survey and that it will require approximately 367 burden hours. Comments regarding the accuracy of burden estimates, as well as ways to minimize the information collection burden, are due by October 14, 2016.
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 8, Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman announced a settlement with various lenders to resolve allegations that they violated Colorado’s consumer credit protection laws by making, servicing, and collecting high-cost loans. According to AG Coffman, the lenders made unlawful personal loans to more than 5,000 Colorado consumers, some of which had annual interest rates exceeding 355%. The AG’s office asserted that, in “the most egregious cases, consumers paid over five times the amount they borrowed in unlawful fees and interest.” Pursuant to a consent judgment entered by the Denver District Court, the lenders must pay $7,384,005.12 in disgorgement and restitution. The settlement comes after the State of Colorado obtained a $565,000 consent judgment against various entities in January 2014 arising out of similar conduct, making this the second Colorado AG settlement in connection with high-cost loans.