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On March 31, the CFPB published its Consumer Response Annual Report, providing a review of the Bureau’s complaint process and a description of complaints received from consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between January 1 and December 31, 2019.
According to the report, the Bureau handled approximately 352,400 consumer complaints. Of these complaints, roughly 81 percent were submitted to companies for review and response, 14 percent were referred to other regulatory agencies, and five percent were determined to be incomplete. Report data showed that more than 3,200 companies responded to complaints received by the Bureau, with roughly 7,800 complaints receiving administrative responses. In addition, at the end of 2019, approximately 15,700 complaints were still being reviewed by companies, the report stated. The top products and services—representing approximately 89 percent of all complaints—were credit or consumer reporting, debt collection, credit cards, mortgages, and checking or savings accounts. The Bureau also received complaints related to: (i) student, personal, and payday loans; (ii) money transfers and virtual currency; (iii) vehicle finance; (iv) prepaid cards; (v) credit repair; and (vi) title loans. As reported by the CFPB, the majority of consumers who submitted complaints indicated that they first tried to resolve their issues with the companies.
On March 24, the CFPB announced the resources available on the Bureau’s website to assist consumers in protecting their personal finances during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Director Kathy Kraninger, the Bureau “want[s] consumers to know the various steps they can take to help themselves or a loved one, both in the short and long term. Our resources address situations ranging from consumers having difficulty paying their bills or meeting other financial obligations to consumers experiencing a loss of income to avoiding scams.” Resources also include links detailing how consumers who experience problems with financial products or services can file effective complaints, what steps consumers can take to protect older adults, and how consumers can protect their credit during the pandemic. The Bureau will continue to update the website regularly with additional Covid-19 related content.
On March 9, the Massachusetts attorney general announced a consent judgment to resolve a 2017 lawsuit brought against an auto dealership and its in-house lender alleging that the dealership misled consumers into purchasing unfavorable sale packages in violation of Massachusetts’ consumer protection law. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the complaint alleged that more than half of the auto dealer’s sales failed or ended in repossession due to misleading sales practices, predatory lending, and faulty underwriting. The consent judgment follows a January court decision awarding summary judgment in favor of the AG’s office. According to the AG’s press release, the auto dealer agreed to provide monetary and injunctive relief to resolve the entirety of the lawsuit’s allegations. The relief includes (i) paying $1.5 million, half of which will go towards reducing ongoing payments on active loans for consumers who purchased cars prior to 2018; (ii) providing eligible consumers who had their vehicles repossessed the option to cancel outstanding debts and repair their credit from the repossession; (iii) improving business practices to ensure provision of fair disclosures and enhanced repair services; and (iv) developing a structured process for handling consumer complaints received by the AG.
On February 3, the CFPB and the Department of Education (Department) announced a new agreement to share student loan complaint data. (See press releases here and here.) The newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is the first information sharing agreement between the agencies since the Department terminated two MOUs in 2017. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Department cancelled the “Memorandum of Understanding Between the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and the U.S. Department of Education Concerning the Sharing of Information” and the “Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Supervisory and Oversight Cooperation and Related Information Sharing Between the U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” and at the time rebuked the Bureau for overreaching and undermining the Department’s mission to serve students and borrowers.
The new MOU clarifies the roles and responsibilities for each agency and permits the sharing of student loan complaint data analysis and other information and recommendations. Among other responsibilities, the Department will direct complaints related to private loans governed by TILA to the Bureau, and both agencies will discuss complaints regarding federal student loans with program issues that may have an impact on federal consumer financial laws. The agencies will also conduct quarterly meetings to discuss complaint observations and borrower characteristics, as well as complaint resolution information when available. Additionally, the MOU addresses permissible uses and confidentiality of exchanged information and the development of tools for sharing data analytics.
The MOU was released a few days after Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger expressing frustration with the Bureau’s oversight of federal student loan servicers and delay in reestablishing an MOU with the Department that would allow the Bureau to resume examining federal student loan servicers.
On January 13, the Illinois attorney general announced that he filed two separate suits in the Circuit Court of Cook County against two credit repair companies and three individuals who allegedly engaged in deceptive and fraudulent practices when promoting credit repair services to consumers and collecting debts in violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Credit Services Organization Act, and the Collection Agency Act.
In the first complaint, the AG alleges a credit repair agency is not registered in Illinois as a credit services organization, and that it, along with its owner, a co-defendant, has not filed the statutorily required $100,000 surety bond with the Secretary of State’s office. The AG’s complaint alleges that the company charges unlawful upfront fees while making false promises that it will increase consumers’ credit scores. When the defendants fail to live up to these promises, they subsequently refuse to refund the money that consumers paid for the credit repair services they did not receive.
In the second complaint, the AG makes the same allegations against a different credit repair company, its owner, and a former employee. In addition, the second complaint also alleges that the company operates as a debt collection agency, but does not possess the requisite state license as a collection agency. Further, the complaint claims that, among other things, the defendants extract payments for “completely fabricated” payday loan debt from consumers who do not actually owe on the loans by using threats and other abusive and harassing collection tactics.
The AG seeks a number of remedies including injunctive relief prohibiting all defendants from engaging in any credit repair business, and prohibiting the second company and its owner and employee from engaging in any debt collection business; rescission of consumer contracts; and restitution to all affected consumers.
On December 17, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) released a new issue of the Consumer Compliance Supervision Bulletin focusing on supervisory insights into consumer compliance issues related to fintech to assist financial institutions with assessing and managing risk associated with technological innovation. Among the topics covered in the bulletin, are (i) managing risk with fintech collaborations—the Fed stresses the importance of creating strong policies and procedures, as well as board and senior management oversight, comprehensive and tailored training, and risk monitoring; (ii) managing UDAP risks with online and mobile banking platforms—the Fed recommends a focus on ensuring consistency and accuracy in disclosures on the platforms and the regular monitoring of complaints; and (iii) managing possible fair lending risks resulting from targeted online marketing—the Fed suggests careful monitoring over marketing activities and vendors, as well as close review of filters used with internet advertising to prevent excluding populations with legally protected characteristics. The bulletin will be featured on the agency’s new fintech page previously covered by InfoBytes here.
On October 15, the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman published its annual report on consumer complaints submitted between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2019. The report, titled Annual Report of the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman, is based on approximately 20,600 complaints received by the Bureau relating to federal and private student loan servicing, debt collection, and debt relief services. The report focuses primarily on complaints and student loan debt relief scams, which are, according to Private Education Loan Ombudsman Robert G. Cameron, “two subjects that, if promptly addressed, may have the greatest immediate impact in preventing potential harm to borrowers.” Of the 20,600 complaints, roughly 13,900 pertained to federal student loans with approximately 6,700 related to private student loans. Both categories reflect a decrease in total complaints from previous years. The report also notes that the Bureau handled roughly 4,600 complaints related to student loan debt collection.
The report goes on to discuss collaborative efforts between federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the CFPB, FTC, Department of Education, and state attorneys general, to address student loan debt relief scams. According to the report, the FTC’s Operation Game of Loans (previous InfoBytes coverage here) has yielded settlements and judgments totaling over $131 million for the past two years, while Bureau actions (taken on its own and with state agencies) have resulted in judgments exceeding $17 million.
The report provides several recommendations, including that policymakers, the Department of Education, and the Bureau “assess and consider the sharing of information, analytical tools, education outreach, and expertise” to prevent borrower harm, and that when harm occurs, “reduce the window in which harm is occurring through timely identification and remediation.” With regard to student loan debt relief scams, the report recommends, among other things, that enforcement should be expanded “beyond civil enforcement actions to criminal enforcement actions at all levels.”
On September 18, the CFPB announced changes to its Consumer Complaint Database (CCDB), stating that it would continue the publication of consumer complaints, data fields, and narrative descriptions. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March 2018, the Bureau issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback on potential changes that could be implemented to the Bureau’s public reporting of consumer complaint information, including the data fields provided in the CCDB. In June 2018, then-acting Director, Mick Mulvaney, noted the Bureau was in the process of reviewing whether or not the CCDB would continue to be publicly available (covered by InfoBytes here.) The Bureau noted that it received nearly 26,000 comments from a wide array of stakeholders in response to the RFI and after considering all input, the decision was made to continue the “publication of complaints with enhanced data and context that will benefit consumers and users of the database while addressing many of the concerns raised.” Specifically, the CCDB will now (i) more prominently acknowledge that the CCDB is not a statistical sample of consumers’ experiences in the marketplace; (ii) highlight the availability of answers to common financial questions to help inform consumers before they submit a complaint; and (iii) highlight consumers’ ability to contact the financial institution directly. Additionally, in the coming months the Bureau plans to, among other things, explore the expansion of a company’s ability to respond publicly to individual complaints in the database and look for additional ways to put complaint data in context, such as incorporating product or service market share and company size.
On March 29, the CFPB published its Consumer Response Annual Report, providing a review of the Bureau’s complaint process and a description of complaints received from consumers from across all 50 states and the District of Columbia between January 1 and December 31, 2018. According to the report, the Bureau handled approximately 329,800 consumer complaints. Of these complaints, roughly 80 percent were submitted to companies for review and response, 14 percent were referred to other regulatory agencies, and four percent were determined to be incomplete. The top categories, representing approximately 89 percent of all complaints, were credit or consumer reporting, debt collection, mortgages, credit card, and checking or savings complaints. The Bureau also received complaints related to: (i) student, personal, and payday loans; (ii) money transfers and virtual currency; (iii) vehicle finance; (iv) prepaid cards; (v) credit repair; and (vi) title loans. As reported by the CFPB, the majority of consumers who submitted complaints indicated that they first tried to resolve their issues with the companies.
On March 19, the CFPB released the “Complaint Snapshot: Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Families 50 State Report,” which provides state-specific data on the nearly 34,000 complaints received from servicemembers, veterans, and their families in 2018 (which the CFPB collectively defines as, “servicemember”). Specifically, for each state, the snapshot provides (i) the total number of servicemember complaints handled in 2018 and the percentage change since 2017; (ii) distribution of complaints by product for both servicemembers and non-servicemembers; (iii) distribution of complaints by branch of service; and (iv) a visual representation of complaints by zip code. Notably, servicemember complaints increased by 12 percent from 2017 to 2018. The states with the highest number of servicemember complaints include Texas, California, Florida, and Georgia. The Bureau has received over 133,000 complaints from servicemembers since 2011.
See recent article by Buckley attorneys, "Takeaways from military complaints at the CFPB."
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Post-pandemic CFPB exam preparation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Making fair lending work for you" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Spring Conference & Expo
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Reading the tea leaves of President Biden’s initial financial appointees" at LendIt Fintech
- APPROVED Webcast: Staying in the know with Buckley regtech solutions
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss “CA, NY, federal licensing and disclosure” at the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association Legal Forum
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Compliance under Biden" at the WSJ Risk & Compliance Forum
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable