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On April 25, the CFPB issued a Request for Information (RFI) on two aspects of the Remittance Rule, which took effect in 2013, and requires financial companies handling international money transfers, or remittance transfers, to disclose to individuals transferring money information about the exact exchange rate, fees, and the amount expected to be delivered. The RFI seeks feedback on (i) whether to propose changing the number of remittance transfers a provider must make to be governed by the rule, as well as the possible introduction of a small financial institution exception; and (ii) a possible extension of a temporary exemption to the Rule set to expire July 21, 2020, that allows certain insured institutions to estimate exchange rates and certain fees they are required to disclose (the RFI states that the EFTA section 9191 expressly limits the length of the temporary exemption and does not authorize the CFPB to extend the term beyond the July 21 expiration date unless Congress changes the law). The RFI also seeks feedback on the Rule’s scope of coverage, including whether the Bureau should change a safe harbor threshold that allows persons providing 100 or fewer remittance transfers in the previous and current calendar year to be outside of the Rule’s coverage. Additionally, the RFI includes a consideration of issues discussed in the Bureau’s assessment of the Rule, which examined if the Rule had been effective in achieving its goals. Comments on the RFI are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Separately, on April 24, the CFPB released a revised assessment report of its Remittance Rule to “correct an understatement of the dollar volume of remittance transfers by banks in the original report,” which increases the share of the remittance dollars transferred by banks. The Bureau notes that the correction does not affect the report’s conclusions. (See previous InfoBytes coverage of the October 2018 assessment report here.)
On March 12, the CFPB released its winter 2019 Supervisory Highlights, which outlines its supervisory and enforcement actions in the areas of auto loan servicing, deposits, mortgage servicing, and remittances. The findings of the report cover examinations that generally were completed between June 2018 and November 2018. Highlights of the examination findings include:
- Auto Loan Servicing. The Bureau determined that attempts to collect miscalculated deficiency balances from extended warranty products were unfair. The Bureau also found that deficiency notices were deceptive where eligible rebates were not sought or applied, although the notice purported to be calculated to include such rebates.
- Deposits. The Bureau found that companies engaged in a deceptive act or practice by failing to adequately disclose that when a payee accepts only a paper check through the institutions online bill-pay service, a debit may occur earlier than the date selected by the consumer.
- Mortgage Servicing. The Bureau noted several issues related to mortgage servicing, including servicers (i) charging consumers late fees greater than the amount permitted by mortgage notes; (ii) misrepresenting the reasons PMI could not be cancelled; and (iii) failing to complete loss mitigation applications with “reasonable diligence.”
- Remittances. The Bureau determined that remittance transfer providers erred when they failed to refund fees and taxes when funds were not made available to recipients by the date listed in the disclosure and the mistake did not result from one of the exceptions listed in the Remittance Rule.
The report notes that in response to most examination findings, the companies have already remediated or have plans to remediate affected consumers, and implement corrective actions, such as new policies and procedures.
Lastly, the report also highlights recent public enforcement actions and guidance documents issued by the Bureau.
On October 26, the CFPB released an assessment report of its Remittance Rule, in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act’s requirements that the Bureau conduct an assessment of each significant rule within five years of the rule’s effective date. The Bureau’s 2013 Remittance Rule (Rule), including its subsequent amendments, requires providers to (i) give consumers disclosures showing costs, fees and other information before they pay for a remittance transfer; (ii) provide cancellation and refund rights; and (iii) investigate disputes and remedy certain errors. The assessment was conducted using the Bureau’s own research and external sources. Key findings of the assessment include:
- Money services businesses (MSBs) conduct 95.6 percent of all remittance transfers and the volume of transfers from these businesses was increasing before the effective date of the Rule and continued to increase afterwards at the same or higher rate.
- The average price of remittances was declining before the Rule took effect and has continued to do so.
- Initial compliance costs for the Rule were between $86 million, based on analysis at the time of the rulemaking, and $92 million, based on estimates from a survey of industry conducted by the Bureau.
- Ongoing compliance costs are estimated between $19 million per year and $102 million per year.
- Consumers cancel between 0.3 percent and 4.5 percent of remittance transfers, according to available data sources, and there is evidence of some banks initiating a delay in the transfer to make it easier to provide a refund if a consumer cancels within the 30-minute cancellation window permitted under the Rule.
- Approximately 80 percent of banks and 75 percent of credit unions that offer remittance transfers are below the 100-transfer threshold in a given year and are therefore, not subject to the Rule’s requirements.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB recently released its summer 2017 Supervisory Highlights (Highlights) outlining its supervisory progress this year. Included among the issues highlighted by the Bureau is its recent activity in the remittance transfer rule (RTR) space under Regulation E. The Highlights indicate that the CFPB intends to continue its focus on RTR compliance at both large and small institutions. Of particular note, the Bureau—for the first time—has provided informal guidance on international mobile top-up products for telephone airtime. Prior to the Highlights, it was unclear to what extent these products were subject to the RTR. The Highlights confirm that the CFPB will take the position that these products fall within the scope of the rule and has taken supervisory action against at least one institution for that institution’s failure to treat international mobile top-ups in excess of $15 as remittance transfers subject to the RTR.
This edition of the Highlights helps to clear up prior confusion around the industry regarding international mobile top-ups and bill pay products, as discussed in a recent article.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, the CFPB issued a request for comment on its plan for assessing the effectiveness of its May 2013 final rule governing consumer remittance transfers (Remittance Rule). The request, which closed for public comment on May 23, focused on, among other things: (i) “whether the market for remittances has evolved . . . in ways that promote access, efficiency, and limited market disruption”; and (ii) whether the Remittance Rule (and other CFPB regulatory activity) has “brought more information, transparency, and greater predictability of prices to the market.” The CFPB received over 35 public comments from a vast array of large and small credit unions, as well as some of the leading providers of money transfer by volume. The consensus among these institutions was that implementing and maintaining the Remittance Rule’s new disclosures, cancellation windows, and audits are costly and the benefits to consumers are negligible. Specifically, one commenter noted increased consumer confusion, increased consumer delays in receiving their funds, and some have discontinued offering money transfers altogether.
On May 23, the American Bankers Association (ABA) submitted a comment letter calling upon the Bureau to conduct an evidence-based assessment on whether the rule has preserved consumers’ access to remittance services. According to a survey conducted by the ABA of 75 member banks of varying asset sizes and cited in the comment letter, the rule—intended to “provide additional information to help consumers shop for remittances and establish error resolution procedures and protections”—has “restricted consumers’ access to remittances, increased fees for use of the service, and unnecessarily delayed remittance requests.” As explained in the letter, the ABA expressed concern about the rule, stating that there is “little evidence that the final rule has improved consumer decision-making or facilitated comparison shopping.” Furthermore, the ABA has asked the CFPB to examine the following issues: (i) whether consumers, including those in rural areas, have access to remittance transfer services; (ii) whether consumers are provided information about remittance services that inform rather than confuse; and (iii) whether regulation of remittances is not unnecessarily burdensome to the financial institutions that provide this service.
Separately, on May 23, The Clearing House, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Bankers Association for Finance and Trade, and the ABA (Associations), issued a joint letter urging the CFPB to examine the effects of the rule from the perspective of both consumer-senders of remittance transfers and the providers of those services. The Associations outlined recommendations for the CFPB including: (i) continuing to permit depository institutions to provide estimates of third-party fees and exchange rates rather than actual fees and rates in cases where obtaining exact data is not feasible; (ii) excluding from the rule high-value transfers in excess of a certain dollar amount as well as excluding from coverage transfers effectuated through reloadable prepaid cards; (iii) modifying disclosure requirements and cancellation and resend rights; and (iv) making changes to the rule’s error resolution provisions to hold the sender responsible for transaction costs resulting from sender error.
On March 20, the CFPB issued a request for comment on its plan for assessing the effectiveness of its May 2013 final rule governing consumer remittance transfers. According to a March 17 blog post on the CFPB’s website, the self-assessment—which is required under Section 1022(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act—will focus on, among other things: (i) “whether the market for remittances has evolved . . . in ways that promote access, efficiency, and limited market disruption”; and (ii) whether the Remittance Rule (and other CFPB regulatory activity) has “brought more information, transparency, and greater predictability of prices to the market.” In describing the approach it planned to take in conducting its evaluation, the CFPB explained that it would seek to “compare consumer outcomes to a baseline that would exist if the Remittance Rule’s requirements were not in effect.” Comments on the plan will be due 60 days following the notice’s publication in the Federal Register.
On March 8, the CFPB released its tenth edition of Supervisory Highlights, summarizing supervisory observations in the areas of consumer reporting, debt collection, mortgage origination, remittances, student loan servicing, and fair lending. The report covers the CFPB’s supervision work in the last quarter of 2015, generally between September 2015 and December 2015. Noteworthy findings in the report include: (i) violations of the Dodd-Frank Act’s unfair practice provisions by student loan servicers who would automatically default borrowers and co-signers on a private loan if either declared bankruptcy; (ii) violations of the October 2013 Remittance Rule, including providers failing to give complete and accurate disclosures to consumers, failing to cancel transactions within the required timeframe, failing to promptly credit a consumer’s account when an error occurred, and either not communicating the results of error investigations within the required timeframe or at all, or communicating them to an unauthorized party; (iii) inaccuracies in checking account information reported to NSCRAs by banks and credit unions; and (iv) violations of the FDCPA, with debt collectors failing to honor consumers’ requests to stop making contact with them and threatening garnishment against student loan borrowers who were not eligible for garnishment under the Department of Education guidelines. In addition to summarizing supervisory observations, the report provides an overview of the public enforcement actions taken between September and December 2015. Regarding non-public supervisory actions in the areas of deposits, debt collection, and mortgage origination, the report states that the CFPB collected more than $14 million in restitution to approximately 228,000 consumers in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Recently, the GAO published a report regarding the potential illicit use of remittance transfers and how, if at all, the proposed Remittance Status Verification Act (RSVA or Act) would assist federal agencies in their anti-money laundering (AML) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act. If adopted, the RSVA would, among other things, require that remittance providers verify remittance senders’ legal status under the U.S. immigration laws; those unable to provide proof of immigration status would be subject to a fine. The proposed Act would also lower the $3,000 threshold level at which remittance providers are required to obtain and record data for a funds transfer. According to the GAO’s findings, almost all stakeholders expressed concern over the potential requirement to verify legal immigration status, with IRS officials concluding that “verifying identities and collecting information at a near zero dollar threshold would not be useful and could cause remitters to resort to off-the-book methods.” Most law enforcement officials, however, suggested that a lower threshold would benefit agencies’ AML efforts.
On May 21, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service (OIG) issued a report titled, “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services.” The report follows a January 2014 white paper issued by the OIG, which explored how the U.S. Postal Service could expand its provision of financial products to underserved Americans. The report summarizes five potential approaches for increasing the Postal Service’s financial services offerings, including: (i) expand current product offerings, which include paper money orders, international remittances, gift cards, and limited check cashing, as well as adjacent services (e.g., bill pay, ATMs); (ii) develop one key partner to provide financial services offerings, including possible expansion to general purpose reloadable prepaid cards, small loans, and/or deposit accounts; (iii) develop different partners for each product; (iv) make the Postal Service a “marketplace” for distribution of financial products of an array of providers; and/or (v) license the Postal Service as a financial institution focused on the financially underserved (although the OIG is not recommending this approach). Factors to consider when determining which approach to take, if any, include the legal and regulatory landscape; the effectiveness of cash management systems; dedication of the internal team, and public awareness of existing and potential services offered.
On January 15, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a final rule amending its Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to reflect policy changes previously announced by President Obama on December 17. The amendments (i) allow U.S. financial institutions to maintain correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions; (ii) allow U.S. financial institutions to enroll merchants and process credit and debit card transactions for travel-related and other transactions consistent with the CACR; (iii) increase the limit of remittances to $2,000 from $500 per quarter; and (iv) under an expanded license, allow U.S. registered brokers or dealers in securities and registered money transmitters to process authorized remittances without having to apply for a specific license. In addition, OFAC released a FAQ sheet to help explain the new amendments, which are effective January 16.
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