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On December 1, the CFPB posted a blog entry sharing its comment letter responding to the California DFPI’s notice of proposed rulemaking for “income-based advances” from earlier this year. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the DFPI’s proposed regulations would, among other things, clarify licensing provisions and the applicability of the CFL to certain activities. Within the CFPB’s comment letter, it stressed the importance of regulatory consistency of consumer financial products and services across federal and state law. The letter noted the CFPB’s view that companies offering “income-based advances” (also marketed as “earned wage access”) are subject to federal oversight, and the CFPB supports state oversight of such companies as well. Moreover, the CFPB said that DFPI’s particular treatment of income-based advances takes a similar approach to TILA and Regulation Z and that the CFPB plans to issue further guidance regarding the applicability of TILA to these products.
On October 23, DFPI announced enforcement actions against four debt collectors for engaging in unlicensed debt collection activity, in violation of Debt Collection Licensing Act and unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, in violation of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law. In its order against two entities, the department alleged that the entities contacted at least one California consumer and made deceptive statements in an attempt to collect a payday loan-related debt, among other things. In its third order against another two entities, DFPI alleged that a consumer was not provided the proper disclosures in a proposed settlement agreement to pay off their debts in a one-time payments. Additionally, DFPI alleged that the entity representatives made a false representation by communicating empty threats of an impending lawsuit.
Under their orders (see here, here, and here), the entities must desist and refrain from engaging in illegal and deceptive practices, including (i) failing to identify as debt collectors; (ii) making false and misleading statements about payment requirements; (iii) threatening unlawful action, such as a lawsuit, because of nonpayment of a debt; (iv) contacting the consumer at a forbidden time of day; (iv) making false claims of pending lawsuits or legal process and the character, amount, or legal status of the debt; (v) failing to provide a “validation notice” ; and (vi) threatening to sue on time-barred debt.
The entities are ordered to pay a combined $87,500 in penalties for each of the illegal and deceptive practices.
DFPI recently approved the final regulation for implementing and interpreting certain sections of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) related to commercial financial products and services. After considering comments and releasing three rounds of modifications to Sections 1060, 1061, and 1062, the final regulation will, among other things, bring protections to small businesses seeking loans, by (i) defining and prohibiting unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices in the offering or provision of commercial financing to small businesses, nonprofits, and family farms; and (ii) establishing data collection and reporting requirements.
Previous InfoBytes coverage on the (i) initial modifications to the CCFPL proposed regulation can be found here; (ii) the second round of CCFPL modifications proposal is found here; and (iii) the third iteration of the modified CCFPL proposal is located here.
This DFPI regulation was notably finalized on the heels of the CFPB’s finalized Section 1071 rule on small business lending data, which similarly will require financial institutions to collect and provide the Bureau data on lending to small businesses (covered by InfoBytes here)
Sections 1060, 1061, and 1062 will be effective on October 1.
On June 8, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released its second annual report covering California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) actions two years after the statute took effect. DFPI reported growth across rulemaking, enforcement, supervision, complaint handling, stakeholder outreach, and consumer education. It also developed several new department functions to support historically underserved communities.
According to the report, DFPI’s increased visibility in the consumer protection space has generated more consumer complaints, resulting in more enforcement actions. Compared to 2021, there was a 514 percent increase in CCFPL-related complaints (approximately 454 complaints), and an 85 percent increase in CCFPL-related investigations (approximately 196 investigations). Top complaint categories included debt collection and crypto assets, with student loan servicers and credit reporting closely following at third and fourth. To address these issues, DFPI opened 110 crypto-related investigations and launched a consumer alerts page on its website featuring 67 public actions and 65 consumer alerts.
Other key takeaways from the report include that DFPI (i) ordered more than $250,000 in penalties; (ii) ordered over $300,000 in restitution to consumers; (iii) brought its first two civil actions using CCFPL authority; (iv) had 105,000 people attend its outreach and education events; (v) published a notice of proposed rulemaking requiring providers of certain financial services and products to register with the DFPI; and (vi) chaptered two pieces of legislation adding to the laws that DFPI may enforce under the CCFPL.
On April 14, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a third round of modifications to proposed regulations for implementing and interpreting certain sections of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) related to consumer complaints and inquiries. DFPI modified the proposed text in December and March (covered by InfoBytes here and here) in response to comments received on the initially proposed text issued last year to implement Section 90008 subdivisions (a) (b), and (d)(2)(D) of the CCFPL (covered by InfoBytes here). Subdivisions (a) and (b) authorize the DFPI to promulgate rules establishing reasonable procedures for covered persons to provide timely responses to consumers and the DFPI concerning consumer complaints and inquiries, whereas subdivision (d)(2)(D) permits covered persons to withhold certain non-public or confidential information when responding to consumer inquiries.
DFPI considered comments on the most recent proposed modifications and is now proposing further additional changes:
- Amended definitions. The proposed modifications change “officer” to “complaint officer” and expand the definition to mean “an individual designated by the covered person with primary authority and responsibility for the effective operation and governance of the complaint process, including the authority and responsibility to monitor the complaint process and resolve complaints.” References to “officer” have been changed to “complaint officer” throughout.
- Complaint processes and procedures. The proposed modifications make clarifying edits to the requirements for annual notices issued to consumers (disclosures must be provided “in a clear and conspicuous manner”), and specify that complaints pertaining solely to entities not involved in the offering or providing of the financial product or service being reported on should not be included in the number of complaints received.
- Inquiry processes and procedures. The proposed modifications clarify that should an inquirer indicate any dissatisfaction “regarding a specific issue or problem” concerning a financial product or service or allege wrongdoing by the covered person or third party, the inquiry should be handled as a complaint.
Comments are due April 29.
On March 23, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI or the Department) released a second round of modifications to proposed regulations for implementing and interpreting certain sections of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) related to consumer complaints and inquiries. As previously covered by InfoBytes, DFPI issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) last May to implement Section 90008 subdivisions (a) (b), and (d)(2)(D) of the CCFPL. Subdivisions (a) and (b) authorize the DFPI to promulgate rules establishing reasonable procedures for covered persons to provide timely responses to consumers and the DFPI concerning consumer complaints and inquiries, and subdivision (d)(2)(D) permits covered persons to withhold certain non-public or confidential information when responding to consumer inquiries. The first round of proposed modifications to the NPRM was released in December (covered by InfoBytes here).
DFPI considered comments received on the initially proposed text and the proposed modifications and is now proposing the following additional changes:
- Applicability. The proposed modifications clarify that Sections 1072, 1073, and 1074 apply only to covered persons required to be licensed by the DFPI or registered with the DFPI “pursuant to Financial Code sections 90009 and 90009.5, including any rules promulgated thereunder.”
- Amended definitions. The proposed modifications add an additional exclusion from the definition of “complaint[,]” excluding a “notice of error filed with a remittance transfer provider.” “Complainant” is amended to clarify that it does not include individuals who are not residents of California at the time “the act, omission, decision, condition, or policy giving rise to the complaint was applied to the consumer.”
- Complaint processes and procedures. Among other things, the proposed modifications add requirements that (i) covered persons issue initial and annual disclosures to California residents that include the procedures for filing a complaint; (ii) the main home page or main contact page include the set hours a live representative is normally available to accept oral complaints; (iii) all written communications—not just the final decision—related to a complaint must be submitted in the language in which the contract was negotiated; and (iv) make changes to DFPI’s annual complaint report requirements, including a new category related to nuisance complaints.
Comments are due April 7.
The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) recently filed a notice of proposed rulemaking with the Office of Administrative Law, seeking to add several sections to Title 10, Chapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations relating to the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL), the California Financing Law (CFL), the California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law (CDDTL), and the California Student Loan Servicing Act (SLSA). (See also DFPI initial state of reasons here.) Among other things, the proposed regulations provide specific registration requirements for covered persons under the CCFPL and outline requirements for exemption from registration under the CCFPL for licensees under the CFL, CDDTL, and SLSA.
According to DFPI’s notice, the CCFPL grants the Department authority to require covered persons engaged in the business of offering and providing a consumer financial product or service to be registered but does not specify requirements for registration. The proposed regulations clarify these requirements, which include establishing an application process, outlining fees, and specifying persons and conditions for exemption. The proposed regulations also establish annual reporting requirements for filing reports with DFPI. The Department explained that “[e]xisting law exempts from CCFPL registration certain licensees who provide consumer financial products or services ‘within the scope of’ their licenses issued under other Department laws.” The proposed regulations clarify the meaning of “within the scope of” and specify that licensees under the CFL and the CDDTL are exempt from registering under the CCFPL. “[E]xempt licensees who provide products or services that would otherwise be subject to registration under the CCFPL [are required] to submit supplemental information on these activities in their annual reports required under their license,” DFPI explained.
With respect to the SLSA, DFPI noted that “[a]lthough an SLSA license does not confer upon a licensee the authority to originate financing within the scope of their license, the regulations exempt SLSA licensees from registration requirements for education financing when they meet specified requirements.”
The proposed regulations also clarify the applicability of the CFL to certain activities, by, among other things, providing that “an advance of funds to be repaid from a consumer’s future earned or unearned pay is a loan subject to the CFL” and that “providers of income-based advances and education financing who are registered under the CCFPL and whose charges do not exceed the charges permitted under the CFL” are exempt from licensure under the CFL. The proposed regulations also clarify provisions relating to collecting loan payments, monthly subscription fees, and loan contracts.
Comments on the proposed regulations are due May 17.
On February 28, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced a settlement with an unlicensed student debt relief company and its owner. The announcement is part of the DFPI’s continued crackdown on student loan debt relief companies found to have violated the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL), the Student Loan Servicing Act (SLSA), and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). According to the settlement, a DFPI inquiry into the company’s practices found that since at least 2018, the company placed unsolicited phone calls to consumers advertising its student loan forgiveness and modification services. The company allegedly gave borrowers the impression that it was a part of, or affiliated with, an official government agency, and would act “as an intermediary between borrowers and the borrowers’ lenders or loan servicers with the goal of helping those consumers lower or eliminate their student loan debts.” The DFPI found that since 2018 at least 790 California consumers enrolled in the company’s debt relief program, whereby the company collected at least $713,000 through up-front servicing fees ranging from $116 to $2,449 from California consumers. By allegedly engaging in unlicensed student loan servicing activities, engaging in unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices with respect to consumer financial products or services, and by charging advance fees for debt relief services, the DFPI claimed the company violated the SLSA, CCFPL, and TSR.
Under the terms of the consent order, the company and owner must desist and refrain from engaging in the alleged conduct, rescind all debt relief, debt management, or debt consulting service agreements, and issue refunds to California consumers. The owner is also ordered to “desist and refrain from owning, managing, operating, or controlling any entity that services student loans, or which offers or provides any consumer financial products or services as defined by the CCFPL, unless and until he or the entity has the applicable approvals from the DFPI and is in compliance with the SLSA, CCFPL, TSR, and the Federal Trade Commission Act.”
On February 24, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released modifications to proposed regulations for implementing and interpreting certain sections of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) related to commercial financial products and services. As previously covered by InfoBytes, DFPI issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) last June to implement sections 22159, 22800, 22804, 90005, 90009, 90012, and 90015 of the CCFPL related to the offering and provision of commercial financing and other financial products and services to small businesses, nonprofits, and family farms. According to DFPI, section 22800 subdivision (d) authorizes the Department to define unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices in connection with the offering or provision of commercial financing. Section 90009, subdivision (e), among other things, authorizes the Department’s rulemaking to include data collection and reporting on the provision of commercial financing or other financial products and services.
After considering comments received on the NPRM, changes proposed by the DFPI include the following:
- Amended definitions. The proposed modification defines a “commercial financing transaction” to mean “a consummated commercial financing transaction for which a disclosure is provided in accordance with California Code of Regulations, title 10, section 920, subdivision (a).” The modifications to the definitions also amend a “covered provider” to exclude “any person exempted from division 24 of the Financial Code under Financial Code section 90002,” and defines a “small business” to be “a business entity organized for profit with annual gross receipts of no more than $16,000,000 or the annual gross receipt level as biennially adjusted by the Department of General Services in accordance with Government Code section 14837, subdivision (d)(3), whichever is greater.” In determining a business entity’s annual gross receipts, the proposed modifications state that covered providers “may rely on any relevant written representation by the business entity, including information provided in any application or agreement for commercial financing or other financial product or service.”
- UDAAP. In addition to making several technical changes, the proposed modifications clarify that “[i]t is unlawful for a covered provider to engage or have engaged in any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice in connection with the offering or provision of commercial financing or another financial product or service to a covered entity.” The changes remove text that would have made it unlawful should a covered provider “propose to engage” in any if these practices.
- Annual reporting requirements. The proposed modifications specify that covered providers who offer commercial financing will be required to electronically file reports to the DFPI on or before March 15 of each year starting in 2025. The proposed changes to the reporting requirements also clarify certain terms, address when covered providers are not required to calculate or report certain information, and stipulate that covered providers “licensed under division 9 (commencing with section 22000) of the Financial Code shall not include in the report required under this section information for activity conducted under the authority of that license.”
Comments on the proposed modifications are due March 15.
On January 30, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced enforcement actions against five separate debt collectors for unlicensed activity under the Debt Collection Licensing Act (DCLA) and unlawful and deceptive acts or practices in violation of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL). According to DFPI, the desist and refrain orders allege that the subjects engaged in a variety of different unlawful and deceptive practices, including, among other things: (i) engaging in debt collection in California without a license from the DFPI; (ii) attempting to collect a debt that a consumer did not owe; (iii) making unlawful threats to sue on debts; (iv) making false claims of pending lawsuits; and (v) failing to notify consumers of their right to request validation of debts. According to DFPI Commissioner Clothilde Hewlett, the agency has observed “an increase in fake debt collector scams in recent months,” and is “committed to rigorous, ongoing enforcement efforts to protect Californians from these deceitful practices.” The combined actions resulted in penalties totaling $120,000 and ordered the debt collectors to desist and refrain from violating the DCLA and CCFPL.