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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB sues online lender to servicemembers

Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Online Lending Servicemembers Consumer Finance Fees Military Lending Act CFPA Fintech

Federal Issues

On September 29, the CFPB filed a complaint against a New York-based online lender and 38 of its subsidiaries for allegedly violating the Military Lending Act (MLA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act by imposing excessive charges on loans to servicemembers and their dependents. The Bureau alleges that the defendants required consumers to join its membership program and pay monthly membership fees ranging from $19.99 to $29 to access certain “low-APR” installment loans. The complaint says that when the membership fees are combined with loan-interest-rate charges, the total fees exceed the MLA’s allowable rate cap, contending that the MLA serves to protect active duty servicemembers and their dependents by limiting the APR applicable to extensions of credit to 36 percent. The Bureau further claims that the defendants deceived consumers by representing that they owed loan payments and fees that were actually void under the MLA. In addition, the Bureau claims that the defendants refused to allow customers to cancel their memberships and stop paying monthly fees until their loans were paid, despite leading many consumers to believe they could cancel their memberships for any reason at any time, thereby “avoid[ing] such automatic renewals and associated membership fees.” In certain cases, the defendants refused to cancel memberships if a consumer had unpaid membership fees even if the loan was paid off, the Bureau says. The Bureau is seeking permanent injunctive relief, damages, restitution, disgorgement, civil money penalties, and other relief.

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