FTC Issues Guidance on Consumer Reporting Obligations under the FCRA

On May 10, the FTC released new guidance on consumer reporting obligations under the FCRA. The guidance is intended to assist companies in understanding whether or not they are subject to consumer reporting requirements under the FCRA. According to the FTC, a company that sells or provides “consumer reports” as defined in Section 603 of the FCRA, 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d), is considered a “consumer reporting agency” bound by FCRA requirements: “even if you don’t think of your company as a consumer reporting agency, it may be one if it provides information about people to employers for use in hiring or other employment decisions.” The guidance further notes that employment background screening companies are typically subject to FCRA requirements, such as: (i) establishing and following “‘reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates’”; (ii) obtaining certifications that verify, among other things, their clients are legitimate and that the credit report will only be used for employment purposes; (iii) providing clients with information regarding their responsibilities under the FCRA, as well as a summary of consumer rights under the FCRA; and (iv) honoring certain rights of applicants and employees, including providing access to files upon request and conducting a reasonable investigation of consumer disputes.

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Congressman Luetkemeyer Proposes Bill to Eliminate “Abusive” in CFPB’s UDAAP Authority

Recently, Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced H.R. 5112, the Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices Uniformity Act, to make the authority of the CFPB and FTC more consistent and similar, and to encourage greater communication among regulators. Specifically, the Act would amend Section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act by removing the CFPB’s ability to regulate “abusive” conduct from its current authority to regulate “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts or practices (UDAAP). In addition, the bill would insert the following language at the end of Section 1031: “[i]n prescribing any rule under this subsection, the Bureau shall comply with the requirements of section 18 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a) applicable to the Federal Trade Commission when the Commission prescribes rules and general statements of policy under that section with respect to unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”

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Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing to Discuss FCC’s Proposed Privacy Rules

On May 11, the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules.” Present at the hearing were witnesses FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. The focal point of the hearing was the FCC’s proposed rule (which comes after its Open Internet Order released in February 2015, designed to preserve net neutrality) on broadband internet services, which is, according to proponents of the proposal, intended to ensure that consumers’ personal information is adequately protected when Internet Service Providers (ISP) collect information on consumers using their products. Read more…

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FTC Settles with Texas Payment Solutions Company to Resolve “Phone Bill Cramming” Allegations

On May 4, the FTC announced a $5.2 million proposed settlement with a Texas-based payment solutions company to resolve allegations that the company, in violation of a 1999 settlement order with the FTC, permitted third parties to place unauthorized charges on consumers’ telephone bills in the course of providing its phone billing services. According to the proposed settlement order, the company failed to (i) vet third party charges before processing them; and (ii) investigate consumer complaints regarding unauthorized charges. In addition to the $5.2 million judgment, the proposed settlement prohibits the company from (i) placing charges on consumers’ phone bills for services “unrelated to the completion of a call,” including voicemail, web hosting directory listing, and email services; and (ii) placing charges for any products or services on any consumer bill unless expressly authorized by the consumer.

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FTC to Host Fintech Forum on Marketplace Lending

On April 14, the FTC announced the first of a series of events intended to examine consumer protection across several areas of emerging financial technology. Scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. on June 9, the first forum will focus on marketplace lending, bringing together industry participants, consumer groups, researchers, and government representatives to examine (i) the different models used by companies in the industry; (ii) potential consumer benefits; (iii) potential consumer protection concerns; and (iv) how existing consumer protection laws may apply to companies in the industry.

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