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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB denies company’s petition to set aside CID, citing investigative authority broader than enforcement authority

Courts Payday Rule Payday Lending CFPB CIDs

Courts

On August 13, the CFPB denied a petition by a credit repair software company to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the Bureau in April. The CID requested information from the company “to determine whether providers of credit repair business software, companies offering credit repair that use this software, or associated persons, in connection with the marketing or sale of credit repair services, have: (1) requested or received prohibited payments from consumers in a manner that violates the Telemarketing Sales Rule [(TSR)]. . .; or (2) provided substantial assistance in such violations in a manner that violates [the CFPA or TSR].” The company petitioned the Bureau to set aside the CID, arguing, among other things, that the CID exceeds the Bureau’s jurisdiction and scope of authority because the agency lacks investigative and enforcement authority over companies that provide credit repair services and companies that provide customer relationship management software for such services. The company also argued that (i) the CID is invalid because the company does not engage in telemarketing, perform credit repair services, or market or sell credit repair services to consumers; (ii) the company is not a “covered person” or “service provider” under the CFPA; and (iii) the company is not required to respond to the CID because “it is clear that [the company] does not provide any assistance, let alone substantial assistance, to any covered person in violation of the CFPA.”

The Bureau rejected the company’s arguments, countering that its “authority to investigate is broader than its authority to enforce.” According to the Bureau, “[r]egardless of whether [the company] itself engages in telemarketing or accepts payments from consumers in a manner that violates the TSR, the Bureau has the authority to obtain information from [the company] that will help it assess whether others may have done so.” Furthermore, the Bureau stated that the CFPA grants it the authority to prohibit unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices committed by a “covered person” or a “service provider,” and “the authority over those who, knowingly or recklessly, provide substantial assistance to a covered person,” which include companies that provide credit repair services. “Whether a company that sells business software to credit repair firms does, in fact, substantially assist any violations committed by those firms depends upon the facts,” the Bureau explained.

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