CFPB settles with payment plan company over deceptive sales practices
On November 2, the CFPB announced a settlement with a Texas-based payment plan company, resolving allegations that the company’s loan payment program disclosures contained misleading statements in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act. According to the Bureau, the company’s loan payment program for auto loans is marketed as an opportunity for consumers to pay off loans faster and more cheaply, where automatic partial payments are deducted bi-weekly from consumers’ bank accounts and then forwarded to consumers’ lenders or servicers. However, consumers who enrolled in the bi-weekly program end up “making 13 monthly payments or one full extra payment to [the company] each year,” the Bureau alleged, in addition to paying a bi-weekly debit fee. According to the consent order, the company, among other things, allegedly provided consumers with a customized “benefits summary” that stated a specific amount of interest savings the consumer would receive by enrolling in the program. The Bureau alleged that the benefits summary, however, failed to disclose that the fees would ordinarily exceed the interest savings. The program—which was purportedly marketed as a “financial benefit to consumers”—created the misleading impression that consumers would save money using the product even though the company allegedly knew the majority of enrolled consumers ended up paying more in total on their loans.
The consent order requires the company to pay a $1 civil money penalty and $7.5 million in consumer redress, which is suspended upon payment of $1.5 million based on the company’s demonstrated inability to pay the full judgment. The Bureau noted in its press release that harmed consumers may be eligible to receive additional relief from the Bureau’s Civil Penalty Fund. The company is also prohibited from making any misrepresentations about its payment program or any other payment accelerator programs.