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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC permanently bans payment processor from debt relief processing

Federal Issues FTC Enforcement Payment Processors Debt Relief Fees Consumer Finance

Federal Issues

On November 8, the FTC announced the permanent ban of a payment processor from processing debt relief payments and ordered payment of $500,000 in consumer redress. According to the FTC’s complaint, the payment processor and its owner (collectively, “defendants”) allegedly processed roughly $31 million in consumer payments on behalf of a student loan debt relief operation charged by the FTC in 2019 for allegedly engaging in deceptive practices when marketing and selling their debt relief services. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC claimed the operators (i) charged borrowers illegal advance fees; (ii) falsely claimed they would service and pay down their student loans; and (iii) obtained borrowers’ credentials in order to change consumers’ contact information and prevent communications from loan servicers. The FTC alleged the defendants processed payments from tens of thousands of consumers even though they were aware of numerous issues with the scheme and had received complaints from consumers and banks. The FTC further alleged that the defendants continued to process payments until the FTC took enforcement action against the operation.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants are permanently prohibited from processing payments for debt relief services and student loan entities and are banned from processing payments for any merchant unless there is a signed, written contract. The defendants are also required to screen prospective high-risk clients to determine whether such clients are, or are likely to be, engaging in deceptive or unfair activities. In addition, the settlement imposes a $27.5 million judgment against the defendants, which is largely suspended following the payment of $500,000, due to the defendants’ inability to pay the full amount.

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