On November 27, Pennsylvania enacted HB 1128, which updates and consolidates the state’s Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act (MVSFA) and Goods and Services Installment Sales Act (GSISA), and includes numerous changes relevant to auto finance companies. Among other things, the bill amends the MVSFA with regard to installment sales contracts, to, among other things: (i) require installment sale contracts to include a statement informing the buyer of possible additional rights under the state Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law; (ii) add triggers allowing for an acceleration clause; (iii) require a holder to notify a buyer upon payment in full by specifying the obligation has been paid in full on the instruments which are to be returned to that buyer with delivery in 10 days of the tender date; and (iv) prohibit a buyer from waiving any provisions in the chapter, including any purported waiver affected by a contractual choice of the law of another jurisdiction contained in an installment sale contract. Other MVSFA amendments provide that only costs disclosed at the time of the installment sale can be included in the contract and specifically prohibit costs for repairs that arise after contract execution from being added to the original contract. The bill amends the GSISA to, among other things: (i) add new requirements related to repossession; (ii) specify new standards for closed-end and open-end credit agreements; and (iii) increase certain maximum allowable fees and finance charges. The changes take effect November 27, 2014.
Recently, the North Carolina Department of Revenue issued guidance regarding a new state law that imposes the state’s 4.75% general sales and use tax, as well as applicable local and transit sales and use tax rates, to the sales price of “service contracts.” The law applies to “service contracts” sold at retail by a retailer on or after January 1, 2014 and sourced to North Carolina. “Service contract” includes any warranty agreement, maintenance agreement, repair contract, or similar agreement or contract by which a seller agrees to maintain or repair tangible personal property. The guidance addresses retailer liability, stating that a retailer that sells a covered service contract is liable for the sales and use tax due on the transaction. Further, a retailer that authorizes another person to sell or enter into a covered service contract with a purchaser on behalf of the retailer is encouraged to ensure that any agreement between the parties provides that any sales and use tax collected on the sales price of a service contract must be submitted to the retailer to be remitted to the Revenue Department. A retailer is not relieved of its liability for sales and use tax on the retail sale of a covered service contract due to failure by another person to collect or remit the applicable sales and use tax due on the sale to the retailer of the contract. The guidance also addresses (i) sales and use tax applicable to receipts for certain contracts entered into prior to January 1; (ii) sourcing of service contracts; and (iii) cancellation or refund of a service contract.
On August 1, six banking industry trade groups submitted a joint comment letter relating to a proposal by the Department of Defense (DOD) to revise protections under the Military Lending Act (MLA), which apply to consumer credit extended to members of the military and their families. Among other things, the MLA caps the annual interest on short-term, small-dollar loans — including certain payday, car title, and refund anticipation loans. The MLA does not currently include credit cards, bank loans secured by funds on deposit, installment loans, or open-end credit.
In June, the DOD issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit input on potential changes to the definition of “consumer credit” in the regulations that implement the MLA, which would significantly broaden its application. The ANPR sought comment on whether the definition of “consumer credit” should be revised to expand coverage of the MLA to additional small-dollar loan products. The trade groups suggest that expanding coverage would be redundant, costly, and confusing in light of the “well-established system of financial protections for consumers [that] exists beyond the [MLA].” In other words, there is no need to create an entirely separate class of credit products for servicemembers and their families not directly related to military service.
The trade groups specifically identify several potential negative consequences of expanded coverage, including reduced access to installment loans and other credit products, and inability to refinance existing credit. On balance, the trade groups view the current rules — adopted after plenary discussion and careful consideration by all stakeholders — to be effective in achieving the proper balance between protecting military families and ensuring their access to credit. Thirteen state attorneys general took an opposing view in a comment letter submitted on June 24.
For additional commentary on the ANPR, please see the recent article from BuckleySandler Partners Kirk Jensen and Valerie Hletko.
On July 24, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled “Payday Loans: Short-term Solution or Long-term Problem?” that included discussion of several short-term, small-dollar credit products. Although the Committee’s jurisdiction is intended to cover policy issues related to older Americans, the hearing reviewed small dollar products more generally. Numerous Senators, including committee Chairman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) scrutinized bank deposit advance products and, building off the CFPB’s testimony and earlier white paper, characterized them as payday loans that trap consumers in a cycle of debt. Sen. Nelson suggested that banks have an obligation to provide customers with alternatives and a range of options to meet their needs, while Sen. Donnelly (D-IN) and others repeatedly raised the concept of a 36% national usury cap. Committee members, with the help of a representative from Maine’s financial regulator, tried to build a record in support of federal legislation to address alleged practices of online lenders, including charges that such lenders often avoid state licensing requirements to circumvent state usury caps. Committee members and witnesses also discussed the role of banks in assuring debits from customer accounts are compliant with state law.
On June 20, North Carolina enacted SB 489 to increase from $10,000 to $15,000 the maximum installment loan amount, and to increase the maximum allowable interest rates on installment loans. Under the new tiered rate structure, effective July 1, 2013, lenders may charge 30 percent on loans up to $4,000, 24 percent on loans $4,000 to $8,000, and 18 percent on loans $8,000 to $15,000. The bill also (i) extends the allowable terms of such loans to 96 months, (ii) allows lenders to charge late and deferral fees, and (iii) adds new protections for military servicemembers.
On March 7, Nebraska enacted two bills intended to amend and clarify requirements for installment loan brokers, payday lenders, mortgage bankers, and mortgage loan originators (MLOs). The first, LB 279, makes nonsubstantive clarifications to the definition of a “loan broker” and narrows the exemption for accountants to certified public accountants only. The bill also authorizes the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance to share examination reports and other confidential information with the CFPB and other state regulators. The second, LB 290, removes many mortgage licensing requirements previously applicable to individuals and separately identifies MLO duties. Those duties include providing notification to the Department (i) within 10 days of events such as bankruptcy, criminal indictments, and suspension/revocation proceedings; and (ii) within 30 days of certain changes, including changes of employer and address. The bill also allows firms to electronically submit certain required reports and provides that the 120-day period for calculating abandonment of a license application runs from the date the Department sends the applicant electronic notice of deficient items. By state rule, both bills take effect three months after the end of the state’s legislative session, which scheduled to conclude May 30, 2013.
On August 20, Illinois enacted House Bill 3935, which amends the state’s Consumer Installment Loan Act and Payday Loan Act to clarify that loans made by unlicensed lenders are considered null and void and that unlicensed lenders have no right to collect on such loans. The amendments take effect on January 1, 2013.
On August 9, Illinois enacted SB 3287, a bill to expand and create various new protections for servicemembers. The bill clarifies the scope of coverage of servicemember protections by amending the definition of “military service” to include any full-time training or duty, no matter how described and no matter which state, federal, or other authority ordered the service. The bill provides new relief for covered servicemembers with regard to (i) default judgments, (ii) mortgage foreclosures, and (iii) installment sales contracts. For example, the bill provides that any mortgagor who is a covered servicemember, or a family member who resides with a covered servicemember, may seek a stay of foreclosure proceedings and an adjustment of the monthly payment obligation for ninety days after the servicemember returns from service. Similarly, a covered servicemember may seek a stay of any repossession of goods subject to an installment sales contract and an adjustment of the obligation. Other protections added or expanded by the bill relate to (i) limitations on interest rates, (ii) termination of motor vehicle and property leases, (iii) cellular phone and long distance contracts, and (iv) utility services. These changes take effect on January 1, 2013.