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On January 31, the CFPB published a request for information (RFI) on the consumer credit card market. Section 502 of the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Disclosure Act (CARD Act) of 2009 requires the Bureau to conduct a review of the consumer credit card market every two years and to seek public comment to assist in that review. While the Bureau seeks feedback on all aspects of the consumer credit card market, the RFI specifically seeks comments related to, among other things, (i) the terms of credit card agreements and the practices, such as collection efforts, of credit card issuers; (ii) the effectiveness of disclosures related to rates, fees, and other cost terms; (iii) prevalence of unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in the market; and (iv) credit card product innovation. Comments must be received by May 1, 2019.
On August 27, the CFPB issued a final rule amending Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), including as amended by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA), and the Dodd-Frank ability-to-repay and qualified mortgage provisions (ATR/QM). The CFPB is required to make annual adjustments to dollar amounts in certain provisions in Regulation Z, and has based the adjustments on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index in effect on June 1, 2018. The following thresholds will be effective on January 1, 2019:
- For open-end consumer credit plans under TILA, the threshold for disclosing an interest charge will remain unchanged at $1.00;
- For open-end consumer credit plans under the CARD Act amendments, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will increase from $27 to $28, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will increase from $38 to $39;
- For HOEPA loans, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages will be $21,549, and the adjusted points and fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,077; and
- The maximum thresholds for total points and fees for qualified mortgages under the ATR/QM rule will be: (i) 3 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $107,747; (ii) $3,232 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $64,648 but less than $107,747; (iii) 5 percent of the total loan amount for loans greater than or equal to $21,549 but less than $64,648; (iv) $1,077 for loan amounts greater than or equal to $13,468 but less than $21,549; and (v) 8 percent of the total loan amount for loan amounts less than $13,468.
On March 10, in accordance with the rules of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), that mandates the CFPB prepare a report every two years examining developments in the consumer credit card marketplace, the Bureau submitted a Request for Information to solicit feedback from the public. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the first review occurred in October 2013 and the second review in December 2015. In preparation for the next report, the Bureau is focusing on several aspects of the consumer credit card market, as follows:
- The terms of credit card agreements and the practices of credit card issuers
- The effectiveness of disclosure of terms, fees, and other expenses of credit card plans
- The adequacy of protections against unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unlawful discrimination relating to credit card plans
- The cost and availability of consumer credit cards, the use of risk-based pricing for consumer credit cards, and consumer credit card product innovation
- Deferred interest products
- Subprime specialist products
- Third-party comparison sites
- Secured credit cards
- Online and mobile account servicing
- Rewards products
- Variable interest rates
- Debt collection.
Comments are due by June 8, 2017.
CFPB Releases Student Banking Report Examining Credit Card Marketing Deals Targeting College Students
On December 14, the CFPB released a student banking report analyzing roughly 500 marketing agreements between colleges, universities and affiliated organizations, and large banks in an effort to identify trends in the school-sponsored credit card market. The report found in part that while credit cards offered in conjunction with educational institutions have declined since the CARD Act was enacted in 2009, many similar offers and deals still exist and may include features that lead students to rack up hundreds of dollars in fees. As explained by CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman, “Colleges across the country continue to make deals with banks to promote products that have high fees, despite the availability of safer and more affordable products.” According to Mr. Frotman, “Students shouldn’t get stuck with the bill when their school inks a deal for an account that’s not in their best interest.”
In conjunction with the publication of this report, the Bureau also published a new compliance bulletin to assist colleges in understanding their obligations under the CARD Act and Regulation Z related to college credit card agreements. This bulletin noted, among other items, that many of the largest colleges and universities do not publish credit card agreements on their websites or make them available to students and the public upon request, creating increased risks of non-compliance. The complete set of credit card agreement data collected by the Bureau in accordance with its obligations under the Credit CARD Act of 2009 can be accessed here.
On June 17, the CFPB announced that it adjusted dollar threshold amounts for provisions in Regulation Z, which implements TILA, under the CARD Act, HOEPA, and the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB is required to make adjustments based on the annual percentage change reflected in the Consumer Price Index effective June 1, 2016. For 2017, the minimum interest charge will remain $27 for the first late payment and the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee for 2016 was amended to $38 for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017. The CFPB is increasing the combined points and fees trigger-threshold for compliance with HOEPA to $1,029, and the amount threshold for high-cost mortgages in 2017 will be $20,579. To satisfy the underwriting requirements under the ATR/QM rule, a covered transaction will not be considered a QM unless the combined points and fees do not exceed 3% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $102,894; $3,087 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $61,737 but less than $102,894; 5% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $20,579 but less than $61,737; $1,029 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $12,862 but less than $20,579; and 8% of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $12,862. The final rule is effective January 1, 2017, except that the amendment to the subsequent violation penalty safe harbor fee amount of $38 for the remainder of 2016 takes effect upon Federal Register publication.
On December 16, the CFPB issued its annual report to Congress regarding credit card marketing agreements between colleges and issuing credit card organizations. Pursuant the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act, credit card issuers must disclose the details of those agreements to the CFPB, and colleges and universities are required to publicly disclose their marketing agreements, either by posting the actual contracts to their websites or by posting the information needed to request a copy of the agreement and subsequently providing a copy to the requestor. According to the report, a review of 25 sample colleges with active credit card agreements determined that “most institutions of higher education [did] not make copies of [the] agreements available on their websites to students and other affected parties.” The CFPB further noted that “[w]ith only rare exceptions, [the] institutions also fail[ed] to provide alternative reasonable means of access to those agreements.” In light of its findings, the CFPB sent a letter to the 17 colleges that may not have adequately disclosed a credit card agreement. The letter explained that the school received the notice because its marketing agreement with a card issuer “could not be publicly obtained using reasonable procedures and in a reasonable timeframe.” While the CFPB’s letter stated that it had yet to determine if the schools’ inaction violated the CARD Act, it urged the recipient schools to “reconsider [their] approach to public disclosure.”
On December 3, the CFPB published a report summarizing the impact of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) on consumers and the credit market. According to the report, access to credit has increased by 10% since early 2012, with more than 60% of adults owning at least one credit card account. The report states that as a result of the CARD Act placing limitations on the use of over-limit fees, and its requirement that such fees and other penalty fees be “reasonable and proportional” to the underlying violation of account terms, consumers saved billions of dollars from 2011 through 2014. The CFPB’s outstanding areas of concern relating to the credit market include: (i) deferred-interest promotions; (ii) debt collection practices; and (iii) rewards program offers that provide only partial information.
On April 15, the CFPB issued a final rule temporarily suspending credit card issuers’ obligation to submit their card agreements to the CFPB, as required by the Credit Card Accontability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (CARD Act). The CARD Act, as implemented by TILA and Reg. Z (12 C.F.R. 1026.58), requires credit card issuers to submit credit card agreements to the Bureau on a quarterly basis. The first submission was set to be the first business day on or after April 30, 2015, but under the one-year reprieve, credit card issuers will not be required to begin submitting credit card agreements to the Bureau until April 30, 2016. According to the CFPB, during the temporary suspension, the regulator will “work to develop a more streamlined and automated electronic submission system.” The CFPB contends that the new system will allow for easier submission of credit card agreements than the manual submission system currently in place. Other requirements in Section 1026.58, including the requirement that credit card issuers post their credit card agreements on their own public website, remain unaffected by the temporary suspension.
On March 17, the CFPB announced a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on key aspects of the credit card market. This RFI is a part of a review mandated by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (the CARD Act)—a law passed in 2009 that requires the CFPB to conduct a review of the credit card market every two years. The review seeks feedback on how the credit card market has functioned over the last two years and the impact new credit card protections have had on consumers. Specifically, the review solicits input on the changing patterns of credit card agreement terms, unfair or deceptive practices within the credit card market, the use of third-party debt collection agencies, and how consumers understand credit card reward products. Information obtained from the review will culminate in a public report to Congress.
On February 4, the CFPB announced a consent order with a Delaware-based credit card company, ordering the company to refund an estimated $2.7 million to approximately 98,000 consumers and pay a civil penalty of $250,000 for allegedly charging consumers illegal credit card fees. According to the consent order, the CFPB alleged the company charged customers fees during the first year after customers opened the account that exceeded the 25% credit limit imposed by the CARD Act. The CFPB further alleged that the company, offering the credit cards through a state-chartered credit union, misled customers about paper statement fees associated with their credit cards and falsely claimed that certain security deposits were “FDIC insured” when they were not. In addition to the refund to customers and civil penalty, the consent order requires the company (i) to refrain from charging fees that exceed 25% of a customer’s credit limit in the first year of the account and (ii) subjects itself to CFPB supervisory authority for the first time.
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