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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB Orders Credit Union to Pay $28.5 Million Over Debt Collection Practices

Federal Issues Consumer Finance CFPB Dodd-Frank UDAAP Debt Collection

Federal Issues

On October 11, the CFPB issued a consent order to a Virginia-based federal credit union to resolve allegations that its debt collection activities were unfair and deceptive in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. According to the CFPB’s consent order, the credit union failed to implement adequate compliance controls and employee training on debt collection communications. The credit union’s actions involved employees who sent letters to “hundreds of thousands” of consumers containing various misrepresentations regarding the handling of consumer debt. The consent order alleged that these debt collection letters falsely threatened legal action, wage garnishment, and contacting servicemembers’ commanding officers for failure to remit payments. The consent order also noted that the same threats were made via telephone. The CFPB further contends that the credit union (i) sent approximately 68,000 letters misrepresenting the credit consequences of falling behind on a loan, alleging that members would “find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain additional credit because of [their] present unsatisfactory credit rating” (internal quotations omitted); and (ii) restricted consumers’ electronic account access and electronic accounts services – without providing adequate notice – once their accounts became delinquent. Pursuant to the consent order, the credit union must (i) pay $23 million in consumer redress; (ii) pay a $5.5 million civil money penalty; and (iii) establish a comprehensive compliance plan regarding its policies and procedures on consumer debt collection communications and electronic account restrictions.