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  • FTC outlines TILA and EFTA efforts in letter to CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On May 20, the FTC released a letter to the CFPB detailing its enforcement activities related to Regulation Z (TILA), Regulation M (the Consumer Leasing Act or CLA), and Regulation E (the EFTA) during 2023.

    The FTC noted its TILA enforcement efforts related to automobile financing; specifically, the Commission detailed two actions involving deceptive car dealer practices. The Commission reported its finalization of the CARS Rule to address the sale, financing and leasing of motor vehicles. The Commission highlighted its “junk fees” rulemaking and stated that such fees cost consumers tens of billions of dollars each year and undercut honest businesses. The Commission noted its military credit and leasing initiatives as well as its report to Congress on consumer issues affecting American Indian and Alaska Native populations, such as impersonation scams and predatory lending.

    The Commission also discussed its work pertaining to the EFTA and Regulation E. The Commission referenced its 2023 enforcement actions, including a case involving negative options. The Commission described its proposed amendments to its 1973 Negative Option Rule which included the addition of a “click to cancel” provision requiring sellers to make cancellation as easy for consumers as it was to sign up. Finally, the Commission confirmed that it released guidance cautioning consumers about money transmission payment apps and their potential for exploitation by scammers.

    Federal Issues FTC CFPB TILA EFTA

  • Court of Chancery throws out suit against bank for alleged fraud

    Courts

    On April 16, in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, a judge threw out a case with prejudice where a shareholder (the plaintiff) sued a bank but ultimately failed to show a “substantial likelihood of liability.” The plaintiff alleged that the bank, along with its board, violated the EFTA and Regulation E by failing to resolve unauthorized electronic transfer claims and provisionally credit the consumer’s accounts within 10 business days, by failing to resolve unauthorized electronic transfer claims within 45 days, and by failing to reimburse victims of unauthorized electronic fund transfers after 45 days. To bolster the plaintiff’s claims, the plaintiff cited a 2022 U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) investigation into the same alleged unauthorized electronic transfers and related reports, including one produced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). However, the court found the reports at issue failed to demonstrate a violation of federal regulations. Accordingly, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a supplemental brief and granted the bank’s motion to dismiss.

    Courts EFTA Regulation E U.S. Senate

  • FDIC issues February enforcement action against New York bank for lack of effective third-party oversight

    On March 29, the FDIC released its list of February 2024 enforcement actions, which included a consent order against a New York digital bank in which the FDIC alleged a lack of sufficient oversight of the bank’s third-party relationships. According to the consent order, the bank allegedly engaged in unsafe and unsound banking practices due to a lack of internal controls appropriate to the bank’s size and risk of its third-party relationships, and weaknesses in board oversight of asset growth and management, among other issues. The FDIC further alleged that the bank violated several laws including BSA, EFTA, and TISA.

    The FDIC ordered the bank’s board to increase its oversight of the bank’s management and the bank’s financial condition commensurate with the size of the bank and the risk of its third-party relationships. Further, the FDIC ordered the board to correct or eliminate any unsafe banking practices or violations of the law. On data and systems, the FDIC ordered the bank to conduct a data and systems review and develop a written action plan to address any deficiencies or weaknesses. Notably for the bank’s third-party relationships, the FDIC ordered that the bank’s procedures, data, and systems include “clear lines of authority” responsible for monitoring bank procedures and effective risk assessments. Finally, among other things, the FDIC ordered the bank to implement look-back reviews and have its board review the bank’s program to ensure compliance with consumer-related laws. 

    Bank Regulatory Enforcement FDIC Third-Party Bank Secrecy Act EFTA New York

  • CFPB warns remittance transfer providers against falsely advertising the costs and speed of transfers

    Federal Issues

    On March 27, the CFPB issued a circular cautioning remittance transfer providers against falsely advertising the costs or speed of sending transfers to avoid violating the CFPA’s prohibition on deceptive acts or practices. The CFPB would administer and enforce the Remittance Rule under the EFTA, but the Bureau noted that remittance providers also can be liable under the CFP Act for deceptive marketing practices, regardless of whether they comply with the Remittance Rule’s disclosure requirements. Through the circular, the CFPB warned against falsely marketing “no fee” or “free” services if the remittance transfer provider actually charges a fee, noting that “[w]ith respect to digital wallets or other similar products, it can be deceptive to market a transfer as ‘free’ if the provider imposes costs to convert funds into a different currency or withdraw funds,” and that “[i]t may also be deceptive to market international money transfers as ‘free’; if the provider is imposing costs on consumers through the exchange rate spread.” The Bureau also warned against “burying” promotional conditions in fine print, and falsely advertising how long a transfer will take especially if transfers may take longer to reach recipients. The circular would apply to traditional international money transfer providers, as well as “digital wallets” that send money internationally from the U.S. and would be part of the Bureau’s initiative to “rein in” alleged “junk fees.”

    Federal Issues CFPB CFPA Remittance UDAAP EFTA

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on P2P payment scams calls for updates to EFTA definitions

    On February 1, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on “Examining Scams and Fraud in the Banking System and Their Impact on Consumers,” and invited three panelists to testify, including an attorney from a consumer law center and two vice presidents from banking associations. Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led the hearing by noting that peer-to-peer (P2) apps are a rising target among scammers, alongside a rise in check fraud. The Chairman noted a 2023 alert from FinCEN warning (as covered by InfoBytes here) of a surge in check fraud after a “drastic” rise in scams, and concluded with a statement that the P2P companies need “rules to make them” do better. Next, Ranking Member Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) called for the companies to spend more money developing security technologies to protect consumers from fraud. Sen. Scott then called for better education in financial literacy to learn about scams and methods. 

    At the hearing, Mr. John Breyault noted that reported losses from P2P payment platforms nearly doubled from $87 million in 2020 to $163 million in 2022. Mr. Breyault asked Congress to play a larger role in preventing fraud on P2P platforms and urged the passage of the Protecting Consumers from Payment Scams Act (which would expand EFTA’s definition of unauthorized electronic fund transfer to cover fraudulently induced payments). Ms. Carla Sanchez-Adams, in her testimony, asserted the entire burden of payment fraud should not fall on the customers and advocated for an updated Electronic Funds Transfer Act that protects consumers from fraudulently-induced transactions. She testified that receiving institutions should have more responsibility, and called for anti-fraud policies that protect consumers from having their accounts frozen, among others. Mr. Paul Benda testified to similar points: he called for an increase in consumer education and the closure of regulatory loopholes to stop impersonation scams. He testified in favor of improved information sharing and enhanced collaboration with law enforcement and regulators.  

    Bank Regulatory Peer-to-Peer Fraud Senate Banking Committee EFTA U.S. Senate Federal Issues

  • CFPB announces civil money penalty against nonbank, alleges EFTA and CFPA violations

    Federal Issues

    On October 17, the CFPB announced an enforcement action against a nonbank international money transfer provider for alleged deceptive practices and illegal consumer waivers. According to the consent order, the company facilitated remittance transfers through its app that required consumers to sign a “remittance services agreement,” which included a clause protecting the company from liability for negligence over $1,000. The Bureau alleged that such waiver violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and its implementing Regulation E, including Subpart B, known as the Remittance Transfer Rule, by (i) requiring consumers sign an improper limited liability clause to waive their rights; (ii) failing to provide contact and cancellation information in disclosures, and other required terms; (iii) failing to provide a timely receipt when payment is made for a transfer; (iv) failing to develop and maintain required policies and procedures for error resolution; (v) failing to investigate and determine whether an error occurred, possibly preventing consumers from receiving refunds or other remedies they were entitled to; and (vi) failing to accurately disclose exchange rates and the date of fund availability. The CFPB further alleged that the company’s representations regarding the speed (“instantly” or “within seconds”) and cost (“with no fees”) of its remittance transfers to consumers were inaccurate and constituted violations of CFPA. The order requires the company to pay a $1.5 million civil money penalty and provide an additional $1.5 in consumer redress. The company must also take measures to ensure future compliance.

    Federal Issues Fintech CFPB CFPA EFTA Nonbank Unfair Enforcement Consumer Protection

  • CFPB issues Summer ’23 supervisory highlights

    Federal Issues

    On July 26, the CFPB released its Summer 2023 issue of Supervisory Highlights, which covers enforcement actions in areas such as auto origination, auto servicing, consumer reporting, debt collection, deposits, fair lending, information technology, mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, payday lending and remittances from June 2022 through March 2023. The Bureau noted significant findings regarding unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices and findings across many consumer financial products, as well as new examinations on nonbanks.

    • Auto Origination: The CFPB examined auto finance origination practices of several institutions and found deceptive marketing of auto loans. For example, loan advertisements showcased cars larger and newer than the products for which actual loan offers were available, which misled consumers.
    • Auto Servicing: The Bureau’s examiners identified unfair and abusive practices at auto servicers related to charging interest on inflated loan balances resulting from fraudulent inclusion of non-existent options. It also found that servicers collected interest on the artificially inflated amounts without refunding consumers for the excess interest paid. Examiners further reported that auto servicers engaged in unfair and abusive practices by canceling automatic payments without sufficient notice, leading to missed payments and late fee assessments. Additionally, some servicers allegedly engaged in cross-collateralization, requiring consumers to pay other unrelated debts to redeem their repossessed vehicles.
    • Consumer Reporting: The Bureau’s examiners found that consumer reporting companies failed to maintain proper procedures to limit furnishing reports to individuals with permissible purposes. They also found that furnishers violated regulations by not reviewing and updating policies, neglecting reasonable investigations of direct disputes, and failing to notify consumers of frivolous disputes or provide accurate address disclosures for consumer notices.
    • Debt Collection: The CFPB's examinations of debt collectors (large depository institutions, nonbanks that are larger participants in the consumer debt collection market, and nonbanks that are service providers to certain covered persons) uncovered violations of the FDCPA and CFPA, such as unlawful attempts to collect medical debt and deceptive representations about interest payments.
    • Deposits: The CFPB's examinations of financial institutions revealed unfair acts or practices related to the assessment of both nonsufficient funds and line of credit transfer fees on the same transaction. The Bureau reported that this practice resulted in double fees being charged for denied transactions.
    • Fair Lending: Recent examinations through the CFPB's fair lending supervision program found violations of ECOA and Regulation B, including pricing discrimination in granting pricing exceptions based on competitive offers and discriminatory lending restrictions related to criminal history and public assistance income.
    • Information Technology: Bureau examiners found that certain institutions engaged in unfair acts by lacking adequate information technology security controls, leading to cyberattacks and fraudulent withdrawals from thousands of consumer accounts, causing substantial harm to consumers.
    • Mortgage Origination: Examiners found that certain institutions violated Regulation Z by differentiating loan originator compensation based on product types and failing to accurately reflect the terms of the legal obligation on loan disclosures.
    • Mortgage Servicing: Examiners identified UDAAP and regulatory violations at mortgage servicers, including violations related to loss mitigation timing, misrepresenting loss mitigation application response times, continuity of contact procedures, Spanish-language acknowledgment notices, and failure to provide critical loss mitigation information. Additionally, some servicers reportedly failed to credit payments sent to prior servicers after a transfer and did not maintain policies to identify missing information after a transfer.
    • Payday Lending: The CFPB identified unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices, including unreasonable limitations on collection communications, false collection threats, unauthorized wage deductions, misrepresentations regarding debt payment impact, and failure to comply with the Military Lending Act. The report also highlighted that lenders reportedly failed to retain evidence of compliance with disclosure requirements under Regulation Z. In response, the Bureau directed lenders to cease deceptive practices, revise contract language, and update compliance procedures to ensure regulatory compliance.
    • Remittances: The CFPB evaluated both depository and non-depository institutions for compliance with the EFTA and its Regulation E, including the Remittance Rule. Examiners found that some institutions failed to develop written policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Remittance Rule's error resolution requirements, using inadequate substitutes or policies without proper implementation.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Consumer Protection Auto Lending Examination Mortgages Mortgage Servicing Mortgage Origination Supervision Nonbank UDAAP FDCPA CFPA ECOA Regulation Z Payday Lending EFTA Unfair Deceptive Abusive

  • Court orders credit union to pay $5 million to settle overdraft allegations

    Courts

    On June 27, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York granted final approval of a class action settlement, resulting in a defendant credit union paying approximately $5.2 million to settle allegations concerning illegal overdraft/non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees and inadequate disclosure practices. As described in plaintiffs’ unopposed motion for preliminary approval, the defendant was sued in 2020 for violating the EFTA (Regulation E) and New York General Business Law (NY GBL) § 349. According to plaintiffs, defendant charged overdraft fees and NSF fees that were not permitted under its contracts with its members or Regulation E. Plaintiffs’ Regulation E and NY GBL liability theories are premised on the argument that defendant’s “opt-in form did not inform members that these fees were charged under the ‘available balance’ metric, rather than the ‘actual’ or ‘ledger’ balance metric”—a violation of Regulation E and NY GBL § 349. The plaintiffs’ liability theory was that defendant’s “contracts did not authorize charging overdraft fees when the ledger or actual balance was positive.” 

    Under the terms of the settlement, defendant is required to pay $2 million, for which 25 percent of the settlement fund will be allocated to class members’ Regulation E overdraft fees, 62.5 percent will go to class members’ GBL overdraft fees, and 12.5 percent will be allocated to class members’ breach of contract overdraft fees. Defendant is also required to pay $948,812 in attorney’s fees, plus costs, and $10,000 service awards to the two named plaintiffs. Additionally, the defendant has agreed to change its disclosures and will “forgive and release any claims it may have to collect any at-issue fees which were assessed by [defendant] but not collected and subsequently charged-off, totaling approximately $2,300,000.”

    Courts State Issues New York Overdraft NSF Fees Consumer Finance Credit Union Settlement Class Action EFTA Regulation E

  • CFPB levies $25 million penalty for EFTA violations

    Federal Issues

    On June 27, the CFPB entered a consent order against a Nebraska-based payment processor and its Delaware-based subsidiary for alleged violations of the EFTA (Regulation E), and the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against unfair acts and practices. According to the Bureau, in 2021 the respondent’s employees allegedly used sensitive consumer financial information while conducting internal testing, without employing the proper information safety protocols. The internal tests allegedly created payment processing files that were treated as containing legitimate consumer bill payment orders. According to the Bureau, the erroneous bill payment orders were allegedly sent to consumers’ banks for processing, which resulted in approximately $2.3 billion in mortgage payments being debited from nearly 500,000 borrower bank accounts without their knowledge or authorization. The Bureau alleged in its order that some consumers accounts were depleted, “depriving Affected Consumers of the use of their funds, including by being prevented from making purchases or completing other legitimate transactions, and many were charged fees, including fees for insufficient funds or overdrawn accounts.” While neither admitting nor denying any of the allegations, the respondent has agreed to pay a $25 million penalty, stop activities the Bureau deemed unlawful, and adopt and enforce reasonable information security practices.

    Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Consumer Finance Mortgages Payment Processors Fintech Unfair UDAAP EFTA CFPA

  • FTC submits annual enforcement report to CFPB

    Federal Issues

    On June 7, the FTC announced that it submitted its 2022 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the CFPB. The report covers FTC enforcement activities regarding the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA), and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). Highlights of the enforcement matters covered in the report include, among other things:

    • Automobile purchase and financing. The report discussed an April 2022 settlement with a car dealership group, which resolved claims that the dealership group added on unwanted fees to consumers and allegedly failed to include details on repayment and annual percentage rates in advertising mailers. The settlement led to a redress sent to consumers.
    • Payday lending. The report highlighted a settlement reached with a payday lending enterprise for allegedly overcharging consumers millions of dollars. The FTC claimed the enterprise made deceptive statements about the terms of their loan agreements and payments and withdrew funds from consumers’ accounts without consent. The order resulted in consumers receiving refunds.
    • Credit repair and debt relief. The report included a settlement with the operators of a student loan debt relief scheme, who were charged with “falsely promising consumers it could lower or eliminate student loan balances, illegally imposing upfront fees for credit repair services, and signing consumers up for high-interest loans to pay the fees without making required loan disclosures in violation of the FTC Act and TILA.” The order also resulted in consumers receiving refunds.
    • Other credit. The report detailed the first case involving the Military Lending Act, where a jewelry company was charged with allegedly charging military families illegal financing and using deceptive sales practices. Specifically, the company was charged with deceptively claiming that financing jewelry through the company would increase the consumer’s credit score, misrepresenting that their protection plans were required, and adding plans without the consumer’s consent. The company was also charged with failing to provide clear terms for preauthorized electronic fund transfers. The settlement required the company to provide refunds, stop collecting debt, and cease operations and dissolve.

    Additionally, the FTC addressed rulemaking that is underway. The agency highlighted an impending ban on junk fees and bait and switch advertising tactics, and briefly discussed two advance notices of proposed rulemaking issued last October that would crack down on junk fees and fake reviews and endorsements. The FTC also highlighted the Military Task Force’s work on consumer protection issues.

    Federal Issues FTC CFPB TILA EFTA UDAP Consumer Finance Enforcement

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