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  • Chopra remarks on how less credit reporting competition may lead to higher mortgage costs

    Federal Issues

    On May 20, CFPB Director, Rohit Chopra, delivered a speech at a trade association event addressing the rising costs in the mortgage lending industry, which may be due to limited competition in the credit reporting sector. According to Chopra, the mortgage industry was dominated by three major conglomerates, and credit scores were provided by a single corporation. These entities have significantly increased the price for credit reports and credit scores in recent years, with increases reaching as high as 400 percent since 2022. These price hikes can increase a lender’s origination fees or interest rates and have impacted both lenders, especially small lenders, and homebuyers disproportionately.

    Chopra added how lenders require credit reports and credit scores for loan origination and adhere to secondary market requirements, which would necessitate purchasing these reports multiple times, like for joint applications. Director Chopra also noted that price increases were no longer tied to volume discounts and instead were now based on a flat fee pricing model, exacerbating costs for lenders. Additionally, the CFPB questioned the accuracy of credit reports, with the reporting industry profiting from expedited correction services known as a “rapid rescore.”

    Director Chopra emphasized the need for regulatory intervention to address these issues within the mortgage industry. Chopra stated that “limiting chokepoints” was critical. As a result, the CFPB was examining these rising costs and considering regulatory measures to enhance competition and affordability. The Bureau was also promoting “open banking,” which would allow consumers to share their financial data directly with lenders to potentially reduce reliance on traditional credit reports and credit scores.

    Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Mortgages Consumer Finance Credit Reporting Competition

  • District court dismisses FDCPA class action for lack of standing

    Courts

    Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted defendant debt collectors’ motion to dismiss a FDCPA class action without prejudice. In 2016, the defendants obtained the plaintiff’s credit card debt and then settled that debt with plaintiff for approximately half of the original amount owed. Thereafter, plaintiff initiated a putative class action alleging defendants made false and misleading representations in the collection letter because they did not specify if the total amount owed included interest, costs, or fees. To establish Article III standing, the Court stated that plaintiff must “allege some form of detrimental reliance on the representations made by a defendant in a collection letter.” The Court found that the plaintiff ultimately failed to demonstrate that the alleged missing interest information in defendants' collection letter was detrimental, and that “informational statements in the [c]ollection [l]etter are not an actual injury unless [p]laintiff acted on them.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that the plaintiff failed to allege any adverse effects of the misleading information, and as a result, failed to establish standing.

    Courts New Jersey Debt Collection Consumer Finance FDCPA

  • CFPB sues online lending platform for alleged CFPA, FCRA violations

    Federal Issues

    On May 17, the CFPB announced a lawsuit against an online lending platform through which consumers could obtain small-dollar, short-term loans through a brokering arrangement with lenders. The CFPB alleged the platform violated the CFPA through its deceptive advertisements to consumers on the platform’s alleged promotion of financing terms which included “no interest,” “0% APR,” or “0% interest” but instead invited consumers to provide “tips” and “donations” to lenders, which, would increase the likelihood of a loan being funded. The CFPB further alleged that while the platform marketed zero-interest loans, the platform did not provide users an option for a $0 donation fee or to skip the fee altogether. The Bureau claimed, “almost all of [the platform’s] loans carry an equivalent annual percentage rate of over 36% APR, and many loans carry an APR in excess of 300%, with some over 1,000%.” The Bureau also claimed the platform violated the CFPA by providing misleading TILA disclosures that did not contain the cost of the additional fees and tips in the quoted total payments.

    The complaint alleged further violations of the CFPA where the platform (i) obscured whether and how borrowers can select the option for no donation or tip; (ii) stated or implied through its practices that consumers were obligated to repay loan amounts although the loans violated the applicable states’ lender-licensing or usury laws that declared such loans void ab initio or limited consumers’ obligation to repay; (iii) requested to collect and collects on void loans consumers were not obligated to repay for the aforementioned reason; (iv) misleadingly implied that it will furnish negative information to the credit bureaus unless the consumer makes a payment, without actually intending to do so; and (v) violated the FCRA.

    The CFPB’s complaint stated that because the platform was a consumer reporting agency under the FCRA and therefore would be required to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” The CFPB will seek, among other things, injunctions against the platform to prevent future violations, monetary relief for borrowers, forfeiture of ill-gotten gains, and a civil money penalty.

    Federal Issues Peer-to-Peer Enforcement CFPB Consumer Finance CFPA FCRA

  • CFPB’s credit card late fee rule stayed

    Courts

    On May 10, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas entered an opinion and order granting the plaintiffs, comprising several trade organization, its motion for preliminary injunction and placed a stay on the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, a suit was filed against the CFPB by multiple trade organizations to challenge the Bureau’s final rule to amend Regulation Z and limit most credit card late fees to $8.

    The court decided not to address the plaintiffs’ arguments regarding the CARD Act, TILA, and APA violations due to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit opinion that the CFPB's funding structure was unconstitutional; therefore, any regulations promulgated by the CFPB would be unconstitutional. For that reason, due to the CFPB’s unconstitutional structure found by the 5th Circuit, the District Court decided that all factors weighed in favor of issuing a preliminary injunction and thus staying the final rule. 

    Courts Federal Issues CFPB Litigation Credit Cards Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Fees Consumer Finance

  • HUD and mortgage lender reach agreement on Montana fair lending complaint

    Federal Issues

    On May 13, HUD announced an agreement with a mortgage lender to resolve allegations of Fair Housing Act violations. According to the redacted agreement, a complaint was filed with HUD last August accusing the mortgage company of engaging in housing discrimination based on race, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The complainants claim they faced discriminatory housing terms, were denied housing, and were subject to racially discriminatory notices and advertisements. The mortgage company denied all allegations of discrimination, asserted its commitment to fair housing and equal opportunity, and agreed to a Conciliation Agreement to resolve the matter without admitting any wrongdoing or liability.

    The mortgage company agreed to a $65,000 settlement and will commit to upholding its fair lending policies, ensuring applicants on Native American reservations are able to obtain residential mortgage loans without fear of discrimination based on race, color or national origin. Respondent will also contribute at least $30,000 towards initiatives designed to enhance housing conditions, financial literacy, and homeownership education for Native Americans near reservations. During the three-year term of the agreement, HUD may review compliance and conduct fair housing tests, among other oversight methods. The terms of the agreement also required the mortgage company to submit a training curriculum on its fair lending training courses for new employees and perform annual trainings with current employees; additionally, the mortgage company must submit an annual report on the mortgage company’s progress and performance in complying with the public interest provisions of the agreement. The agreement has been approved by the regional director of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

    Federal Issues HUD Enforcement Settlement Montana Consumer Finance Fair Lending Mortgages

  • Student loan servicer and trust could pay more than $5M in enforcement action with CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On May 6, the CFPB filed a complaint against a Pennsylvania-based student loan servicer and 15 student loan trusts for alleged failure to properly respond to various borrower requests in violation of the CFPA. The complaint alleged thousands of borrower requests went unanswered from 2015 to 2021. Many of these requests allegedly sought forms of payment relief including: (i) co-signer release; (ii) extension of forbearance or deferment; (iii) loan settlement or forgiveness; (iv) Servicemember Civil Relief Act benefits; and (v) other forms of payment or interest rate reduction.

    The CFPB also released two proposed stipulated final judgment orders for the trusts and the servicer to resolve the claims. If agreed upon by the court, the trusts and servicer will have to pay civil money penalties of $400,000 and $1.75 million, respectively, in addition to providing close to $3 million in compensation to impacted consumers. Additionally, the orders required non-monetary relief, such as the approval of outstanding borrower applications, the rectification of credit reports, the suspension of debt collection efforts, and the implementation of a functional process.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Student Lending Enforcement

  • CFPB reports that complex pricing leads to higher consumer costs

    Federal Issues

    On April 30, the CFPB published a report titled Price Complexity in Laboratory Markets indicating that consumers may pay higher prices for products with complex pricing structures. The report drew on experiments conducted in “simple markets,” where participants engaged in transactions as buyers and sellers. According to the report, these experiments revealed that when product prices were divided into several sub-parts, making them more complicated, participants generally paid more compared to products with a single, comprehensive price.

    The study involved participants acting in the roles of buyers and sellers, with transactions involving products priced either as a lump sum or split into eight or 16 separate charges. According to the report, the results showed that in situations with more fragmented pricing, the average selling price increased and buyers found it more challenging to compare prices between sellers. For products with 16 separate charges, the Bureau reported that sellers’ total asking price was typically 60 percent higher than products with one price. In a second experiment, the CFPB investigated the effects of increased competition on market outcomes, finding that increased competition “generally improved, but did not eliminate, the negative effects of price complexity.” The Bureau noted that the findings of this research align with existing studies and evidence suggesting that alleged "junk fees" can lead to higher overall prices than those typically found in a fair and competitive market.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Junk Fees Consumer Protection

  • Biden announces student debt cancellation for borrowers who attended “predatory” institutions

    Federal Issues

    On May 1, the Biden Administration announced the approval of $6.1 billion in student debt cancellation for 317,000 borrowers who attended a system of art schools, which the Administration accused of engaging in deceptive practices and leaving students with significant debt and poor job prospects.

    The U.S. Department of Education found the system of art schools and its parent company guilty of significant misrepresentations about the educational value and career prospects following graduation on websites, in print material, and through misleading information from school personnel to prospective students. The school advertised an employment rate of 82 percent within six months of graduation within the field of study; however, a review of the school's records by the Department of Education alleged that graduates were inaccurately counted as employed in their study fields, inflating the figures by as much as 25 percent. Additionally, the school advertised inflated average salaries based on the same incorrect data, with testimonies indicating that school officials fabricated graduates’ earnings. All campuses of the school system closed under separate ownership in September 2023.

    Federal Issues Biden Student Lending Consumer Protection Consumer Finance

  • DFPI annual report highlights consumer protection efforts and upcoming regulations

    State Issues

    On April 25, the California DFPI released its Annual Report of Activity under the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL), highlighting investigations, public actions, and consumer outreach efforts under the CCFPL. According to the report, the DFPI (i) experienced a 70 percent increase in CCFPL complaints, which predominantly involved crypto assets and debt collectors; (ii) opened 734 CCFPL-related investigations and issued 181 public CCFPL actions; (iii) launched the Crypto Scam Tracker and a new consumer complaints portal; and (iv) advanced two rules, including unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UUDAAP) protections for small businesses and new registration requirements (pending final approval by the Office of Administrative Law) for earned wage access, debt settlement services, debt relief services, and private postsecondary education financing products.

    The report emphasized that the new regulations specified that optional payments, such as tips, collected by California Financing Law (CFL)-licensed lenders would be considered charges under the law. According to the DFPI, these updates will reinforce the CFL by blocking potential loopholes and ensuring compliance among CFL-licensed lenders. Once these regulations would be approved, DFPI will oversee these financial service providers. Upon adoption, DFPI says it will be a pioneer in defining “earned wage access” as loans and regulating income advance services and the treatment of tips as charges, all through regulatory measures rather than statutory enactment.

    State Issues DFPI Enforcement California Consumer Protection Consumer Finance Digital Assets Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

  • Student loan servicer to pay DFPI $27, 500 for untimely response to information request

    State Issues

    On April 24, the California DFPI entered into a consent order with a federal student loan servicer (respondent) that allegedly failed to provide the DFPI with timely access to requested borrower data. In late April of 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced a one-time revision of income-driven repayments to address past inaccuracies.  To take advantage of this adjustment, the Department of Education required borrowers to submit a loan consolidation application by April 30, 2024.  The DFPI requested information from respondent on student loan borrowers for the purpose of completing outreach to impacted borrowers ahead of the loan consolidation application deadline. Respondent provided this information 17 days after the deadline set by the DFPI. 

    To resolve DFPI’s allegations, respondent agreed to pay a penalty in the amount of $27,500.

    State Issues California DFPI Student Loans Missouri Consumer Finance

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