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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • Illinois appellate court affirms dismissal of consumer counterclaims in credit card action


    On April 12, the Appellate Court of Illinois published an opinion affirming the dismissal of a consumer’s counterclaims against a lender in a lawsuit seeking to collect the consumer’s alleged debt from a store credit card. According to the opinion, in January 2017, the lender filed a small claims action seeking to collect credit card debt on which the consumer allegedly defaulted in July 2012. The consumer filed a putative class action counterclaim against the lender alleging, among other things, that the lender’s collection action violated the FDCPA and various Illinois laws because it was time-barred under the four-year statute of limitations period provided to enforce a sale of goods under Section 2-725 of the UCC. The lender moved to dismiss the counterclaims, alleging that its complaint was timely filed within the five-year statute of limitations period applicable to credit card agreements under Section 13-205 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. The lower court granted the lender’s motion to dismiss, holding that the credit card agreement was governed by the five-year statute of limitations applicable to credit card agreements under Section 13-205 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, rather than the four-year statute of limitations under the UCC’s sale of goods provisions. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, rejecting the consumer’s argument that the UCC should apply to the agreement because the consumer could only use the credit card to purchase goods at a single retailer. Specifically, the appellate court held that the type of credit card was immaterial to the analysis and that Section 13-205 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure clearly controlled in this case because a tripartite relationship existed among the bank, the cardholder, and the merchant, and the payments made by the bank to the merchant pursuant to the cardholder agreement constituted a loan to the cardholder. As a result, the lender’s complaint was timely filed.

    Courts State Issues Credit Cards Debt Collection Statute of Limitations FDCPA

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  • District Court: Using department store name as creditor is not prohibited under the FDCPA


    On March 21, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a debt collector’s motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that the debt collector violated the FDCPA by failing to name the creditor to whom the debt was owed. According to the opinion, the debt collector sent a consumer an initial demand letter stating it was attempting to collect a debt and named the department store associated with the credit card as the current and original creditor. The consumer initiated an action against the debt collector alleging violations of the FDCPA for failing to specifically name the creditor associated with the department store credit card. Both parties moved for summary judgment. Because the department store’s name was on the credit card, the application, and the billing statements, and consumers are directed to make payments to the department store by mail or online, the court determined that using the creditor’s name “could very well cause confusion and influence a consumer’s decision to pay or challenge the debt.” Using the department store’s name, while potentially a technical misrepresentation, is not a material misrepresentation under the FDCPA because it “would not mislead the least sophisticated consumer or influence a decision about whether to pay or challenge the debt,” as it named the entity the consumer had conducted business with in connection with the debt.

    Courts Debt Collection FDCPA Credit Cards

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  • District Court: Debt collector did not buy right to arbitrate with credit card account


    On March 22, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that a debt collector (defendant) who purchased a consumer’s credit card account failed to establish that the sale of the account included the sale of the right to arbitrate disputes relating to the account. According to the ruling, a bank sold a consumer’s credit card account to the defendant after the plaintiff defaulted on his payments. The agreement between the consumer and the bank included a mandatory arbitration clause, as well as a class action waiver. When the defendant sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging the letter violated the FDCPA because, among other things, it included ambiguous language regarding discount payment options. The defendant moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the defendant’s motion, stating that the sale of the accounts does not axiomatically include the right to arbitrate disputes relating to them, and that the defendant had not provided adequate documentation to support the conclusion that it did in this case. The court found that “subject to further argument and possible evidence clarifying possible ambiguity in the use of the term ‘account’ in the assignment,” the court would not presume that the sale of the accounts included the bank’s rights to compel arbitration.

    Courts Debt Collection Arbitration Credit Cards

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  • CFPB seeks to extend ECOA and credit card plan information collections

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 20, the CFPB published in the Federal Register two requests to renew information collections, one on the “Report of Terms of Credit Card Plan,” which collects data from at least 150 financial institutions on credit card pricing and availability, and the other on ECOA and Regulation B. For both information collections, the Bureau is seeking comments on (i) whether the information collections are necessary for the proper function of the Bureau; (ii) if the Bureau accurately estimates the burden of the collection and how to minimize that burden; and (iii) how the Bureau can “enhance the quality, utility, and, clarity of the information” collected. Comments on both requests must be received by May 20.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB ECOA Credit Cards

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  • 3rd Circuit affirms no actual harm in FACTA suit


    On March 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued a precedential opinion holding that, without concrete evidence of harm, a consumer lacks standing under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to sue a merchant for including too many digits of his credit card account number on a receipt. According to the opinion, the plaintiff claimed that he received receipts from three different stores owned by the defendant, all of which included both the final four digits and the first six digits of his account number. The plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit alleging the defendant willfully violated FACTA, which prohibits printing more than the last five digits of credit card number on a receipt. The plaintiff alleged that this violation, which he also claimed increased the risk of identity theft, constituted an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Spokeo v. Robins (covered by a Buckley Special Alert). The district court dismissed the suit.

    On appeal, the 3rd Circuit agreed with the lower court, holding that the plaintiff failed to allege actual harm from the defendant’s practice. The appellate court held that the defendant’s technical violation of FACTA did not give the plaintiff standing to sue. Moreover, in the absence of actual harm, or a material risk of actual harm (the plaintiff did not allege that anyone—aside from the cashier—saw the receipt, that his credit card number had been misappropriated, or that his identity was stolen), the plaintiff would not have suffered the injury-in-fact that created federal court jurisdiction.

    Courts Third Circuit Appellate FACTA Credit Cards Consumer Finance Spokeo

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  • North Dakota allows collection agencies to charge credit card fees to debtors

    State Issues

    On March 6, the North Dakota governor signed HB 1204, which allows a collection agency to collect a transaction fee for processing a credit card payment. Under the amended law, a collection agency may collect, in addition to the principal amount of the claim, a transaction fee up to two and half percent for processing a credit card payment if: (i) the transaction fee is not otherwise prohibited under the law; (ii) a no-cost payment option is available to the debtor; and (iii) the no-cost payment option is disclosed to the debtor at the same time and in the same manner that the credit card information is taken. The law takes effect on August 1.

    State Issues Debt Collection State Legislation Credit Cards Fees

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  • CFPB releases RFI on consumer credit card market

    Federal Issues

    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.

    Federal Issues CFPB RFI Credit Cards CARD Act

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  • CFPB releases annual report on servicemember complaint issues

    Federal Issues

    On January 24, the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA) released an annual report, which highlights issues facing military consumers based on complaints submitted by servicemembers, veterans, and their families (collectively “servicemembers”). The OSA report covers the period between April 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018, during which the Bureau received approximately 48,800 military complaints. Some key takeaways from the OSA report are as follows:

    • The largest category of servicemember complaints focused on credit reporting, with 37 percent of total servicemember complaints in this area. The report notes that the Department of Defense’s new security clearance process increases the likelihood that a servicemember’s poor credit score could result in losing a security clearance, and by extension being separated from the military.
    • After credit reporting, debt collection was the next most complained about issue. Most servicemembers’ debt collection complaints alleged that the servicemember did not owe the debt or that the debt collector failed to respond to written requests for information. In particular, the report states that some debt collectors have inappropriately contacted servicemembers’ chains of command in an attempt to obtain payment.
    • For mortgage debt, the largest category of complaints arose from challenges in the payment process—in particular issues related to loan modifications, collections, communicating with the servicemember’s “single point of contact,” escrow, and servicing transfers. These process-focused complaints were closely followed by overall difficulties in being able to afford mortgage payments.
    • For credit cards, the greatest concentration of complaints were around problems with purchases on statements (i.e. fraudulent/unauthorized charges, billing frustrations, and difficulties in challenging charges directly with the credit card issuer). Notably, while the report acknowledges the October 2017 Military Lending Act compliance date for credit card issuers, it does not specifically break out MLA-related complaints; rather, the report notes that the Bureau has received “some complaints from servicemembers demonstrating confusion with respect to how and when creditors are applying the MLA’s protections to credit card accounts.”
    • For auto lending, the leading category of complaints arose from managing the loan or lease, including application of payments and late fees. Unique to servicemembers, the report highlights that products like GAP can become void if a servicemember takes a car overseas (for example, to use while on deployment).
    • For student lending, two-thirds of complaints arose from challenges in making payments and enrolling in payment plans, in particular issues with enrolling and recertifying eligibility for income-driven repayment.
    • Finally, in the payday loan space, since 2016 servicemember complaints have decreased drastically and are now equal with non-servicemember complaints (as a percentage of total complaint volume); previously, servicemembers were almost twice as likely to complain about payday loan products.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Complaints Military Lending Act Mortgages Credit Cards Payday Lending Auto Finance

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  • Retailer settles multistate data breach investigation for $1.5 million

    State Issues

    On January 8, a national retailer reached a $1.5 million multistate settlement with 43 states and the District of Columbia to resolve an investigation following a 2013 data breach of customer payment card information. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s announcement, the retailer will implement provisions to prevent future breaches, such as (i) complying with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard requirements; (ii) maintaining a system to collect and monitor network activity; (iii) updating software that maintains and safeguards personal information; and (iv) devaluing payment card information through the use of encryption and tokenization technology to obfuscate payment card data. The retailer must also retain a third-party professional responsible for conducting an information security assessment and report, as well as outlining corrective measures.

    State Issues Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security State Attorney General Credit Cards Data Breach Settlement

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  • Additional defendants settle credit card laundering lawsuit

    Federal Issues

    On December 11, the FTC entered into a proposed settlement with an Arizona-based company and its officer (defendants) relating to an allegedly deceptive credit card telemarketing operation. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC alleged that the defendants—as part of a larger group of 12 defendants comprised of an independent sales organization, sales agents, payment processors, and identified principals—violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by assisting a telemarketing company in masking its identity by processing the company’s credit card payments and laundering credit card transactions on behalf of multiple fictitious companies. The proposed settlement, among other things, prohibits the defendants from engaging in credit card laundering and bans them from telemarketing, processing payments, or acting as an independent sales organization or sales agent. The order also stipulates a judgment of $5.7 million, which will be suspended unless it is determined that the financial statements submitted by the defendants contain any inaccuracies.

    In March 2018, the FTC reached settlements with two of the other defendants (see InfoBytes coverage here). Litigation continues against the remaining defendants.

    Federal Issues FTC Settlement Anti-Money Laundering Credit Cards FTC Act Telemarketing Sales Rule Payment Processors

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