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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC charges merchant cash advance provider with deceptive and unfair practices

Federal Issues FTC Enforcement Merchant Cash Advance Small Business Lending FTC Act UDAP

Federal Issues

On August 3, the FTC filed a complaint against two New York-based merchant cash advance providers and two company executives (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly engaging in deceptive practices by misrepresenting the terms of their merchant cash advances (MCAs), using unfair collection practices, making unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ accounts, and misrepresenting collateral and personal guarantee requirements. The FTC’s complaint alleges that when marketing and offering MCAs to small business customers, the defendants, among other things, (i) falsely advertised that MCAs do not require collateral or personal guarantees, but when consumers defaulted on their financing agreements, the defendants frequently filed lawsuits against them, including against individual business owners who provided personal guarantees, to collect the unpaid amount; (ii) misrepresented the amount of total financing in the contract that consumers would receive by withholding fees that are deducted from the promised funds; and (iii) made unfair, unauthorized withdrawals from customers’ bank accounts in excess of consumers’ authorization without express informed consent, and routinely continued to debit customers’ bank accounts after the MCAs were fully repaid. According to the FTC, the “unauthorized overpayments have been a typical occurrence for [the defendants’] customers, and have impacted at least thousands of them, in amounts ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

The FTC seeks a permanent injunction against the defendants, along with monetary relief including “rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, the refund of monies paid, disgorgement of ill-gotten monies, and other equitable relief.”