FTC Submits Annual Report on 2015 Enforcement Actions to CFPB

On June 6, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2015 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report covers the FTC’s enforcement activities related to compliance with Regulation Z (TILA), Regulation M (Consumer Leasing Act or CLA), and Regulation E (Electronic Fund Transfer Act or EFTA), as well as the FTC’s related activities in rulemaking, research, policy development, and consumer/business education related to TILA. According to the report, the FTC’s enforcement efforts in 2015 concerning TILA involved mortgage-related credit and non-mortgage credit, including automobile purchases and financing, car title loans, payday lending, and consumer electronics financing. Regarding mortgage-related credit activity, the report highlights continued litigation involving mortgage assistance relief services/forensic audit scams: “[i]n these scams, mortgage assistance relief providers offer, for a substantial fee, to review or audit the mortgage documents of distressed homeowners to identify violations of TILA, Regulation Z, and other federal laws.” The report further noted that under Regulation M and as part of the FTC’s Operation Ruse Control sweep on the auto industry, the FTC issued five final administrative consent orders and one consent agreement for public comment. Finally, regarding the FTC’s enforcement activities related to compliance with the EFTA, the report states that four of the FTC’s seven cases involving the EFTA in 2015 arose in the context of “negative option” plans, where consumers agreed to a trial period in which they received certain goods or services for no additional charge or at a reduced price, but later incurred recurring charges due to failure to cancel before the trial period ended.

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CFPB Issues Fall Rulemaking Agenda, Potential Student Loan Servicing Rules on Horizon

On November 20, the CFPB released its fall rulemaking agenda. The CFPB’s notable current initiatives include: (i) addressing arbitration clauses in contracts related to consumer financial products and services and  providing an outline of rulemaking ideas such as “whether to propose rules that would prevent companies from using these agreements to foreclose consumers’ ability to bring class action lawsuits”; (ii) developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with an anticipated release date in the first quarter of 2016, to address concerns relating to payday and auto title lending; (iii) finalizing its December 2014 proposed rule, “Prepaid Accounts Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (Regulation E) and the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z),” to address consumer protection concerns relating to reloadable cards and other similar prepaid products; and (iv) considering rules to designate consumer installment loans and vehicle title loans as  “larger participants” under the CFPB’s supervisory authority. Looking ahead, the CFPB’s report highlights the potential for rulemaking to address issues related to credit reporting and student loan servicing. Regarding student loan servicing, the CFPB stresses that it “has made it a priority to take action against companies that are engaging in illegal servicing practices,” and that it will “continue to monitor the market for trends and developments and evaluate possible policy responses, including potentially proposing rules.”

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Special Alert: CFPB Issues Guidance Regarding Preauthorized Debit Transactions Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E

On November 23, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released Compliance Bulletin 2015-06 (“Bulletin”), which provides industry guidance on the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (“EFTA”) and Regulation E requirements for obtaining consumer authorizations for preauthorized electronic fund transfers (“EFTs”). The CFPB issued this Bulletin, in part, because it observed during its examinations that some companies are not fully complying with the EFTA and Regulation E. Principally, this Bulletin addresses two areas of concern: (i) obtaining the customer’s authorization for preauthorized EFTs over the telephone; and (ii) providing a copy of the authorization to the customer. Read more…

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Large National Bank Fights Against Latest Suit Alleging Improper Overdraft Fees

On January 6, a large national bank filed a motion to dismiss a suit alleging it charged improper overdraft fees. Filed last year in the Central District of California, the suit claims the bank violated federal and state laws – the EFTA and California’s unfair competition law – by posting customers’ larger debit transactions first, causing customer accounts to deplete faster resulting in more overdraft fees. In its motion, the bank claims it voluntarily stopped charging overdraft fees for one-time debit card transactions and most ATM withdrawals prior to the effective date of the amended regulations. The bank also argues that state law claims regarding good faith practices are preempted by the federal National Banking Act (NBA). The matter is scheduled to be heard on March 3. Stanionis et al v. Bank of America, No. 14-cv-2222

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CFPB & State Attorneys General Fine Retailer and Debt Collectors for Alleged Illegal Debt Collection Practices Against Military Servicemembers

On December 18, the CFPB and the Attorneys General of North Carolina and Virginia announced an enforcement action against three affiliated companies offering credit and financing services to military servicemembers. The complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia alleges that the companies used illegal tactics to collect debts in violation of Dodd-Frank, including by (i) filing illegal lawsuits; (ii) debiting consumers’ accounts without authorization; and (iii) contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers. The complaint also charges that one of the companies violated the EFTA by failing to properly disclose the terms of preauthorized transfers, while another company violated TILA by failing to properly disclose terms and interest rates on the loans it offered to servicemembers. The CFPB and the Attorneys General filed a consent order in the district court to require the companies and their owners and chief officers to provide over $2.5 million in consumer redress, pay a $100,000 civil penalty, and undergo ongoing compliance monitoring for a period of five years.

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