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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Payroll Card Regulations in New York Are Struck Down

    State Issues

    In a Decision released on February 16, the New York Industrial Board of Appeals struck down the portions of a New York Department of Labor regulation (12 NYCRR 192), set to go into effect on March 7, that would have restricted a New York employers’ ability to pay its employees via payroll debit card. Specifically, the board ruled that the Department had exceeded its authority under New York labor law and encroached upon the jurisdiction of banking regulators when imposing fee limits and other restrictions on the cards. 

    The new rule – which was adopted by the Department of Labor in September 2016, and codified at section 192 of the New York Labor Law – set forth numerous regulations clarifying and/or specifying the acceptable methods by which employers in New York State may pay wages to certain employees. Among other things, the regulation required that an employer provide written notice to the employee and obtain written consent from the employee at least seven business days prior to taking action to issue the payment of wages by payroll debit card. The new rule would also have prohibited many fees, including charges for monthly maintenance, account inactivity and overdrafts, and for checking a card’s balance and contacting customer service.

    At issue before the Industrial Board of Appeals was a petition submitted by a single payroll debit card vendor challenging the Department of Labor’s authority to regulate payroll debit cards. Ultimately, the Board agreed with the vendor, finding that the Department sought to improperly regulate banking services provided by financial institutions – an area subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the New York Department of Financial Services.  In reaching this holding, the Board noted that that the Department of Financial Services already regulates and has issued guidance concerning the fees that financial institutions may charge for banking services, including those related to checking accounts and licensed check cashers. The Board also noted that, should the Department of Labor wish to challenge the Decision, it may bring an Article 78 proceeding in New York Supreme Court, or, alternatively, it may choose to revise the Prepaid Card-related provisions identified in the Decision.

    State Issues Fintech Prepaid Cards Consumer Finance NYDFS

  • CFPB Fines Prepaid Debit Card Company and Payment Processor $13 Million for Preventable Service Breakdown, Claims Consumers Denied Access to Their Own Money

    Courts

    On February 1, the CFPB announced that it had entered a consent order against two companies—a prepaid card company and its payment processor—for failing to conduct adequate testing and preparation before and during a switch to a new payment processing platform in 2015. In addition, the Bureau cited both companies for improper administration of accounts after the switch. The allegations arise out of an approximate three week breakdown in services in October 2015 which, among other things, denied cardholders access to their accounts, delayed the processing of deposits and payments, and also, in some instances, erroneously double posted deposits which falsely inflated account holders’ balances. The consent order also notes that the prepaid card company failed to provide adequate customer service to consumers impacted by the breakdown. The CFPB stated that it received roughly 830 consumer complaints in the weeks following the switch. Based on these and other allegations, the Bureau ordered the two companies to prepare a plan to prevent future service disruptions and pay an estimated $10 million in restitution to harmed consumers as well as a $3 million civil penalty.

    Courts Consumer Finance CFPB Prepaid Cards Payments Payment Processors

  • CFPB Monthly Complaint Report Spotlights Prepaid Complaints

    Federal Issues

    On October 25, the CFPB released its latest monthly report of consumer complaint trends. This month’s report highlights prepaid complaints, noting that since July 21, 2011, the CFPB has received approximately 6,000 prepaid complaints. According to the report, the “most common issues identified by consumers are problems with managing, opening or closing an account (32 percent) and unauthorized transactions or other transaction issues (30 percent).” Additional prepaid complaints highlighted in the report include: (i) consumers experiencing delays in receiving a replacement card after having notified a company of fraudulent or unauthorized charges to their prepaid cards; (ii) difficulty using a prepaid card after having purchased one; (iii) assessing dormancy fees that depleted the card’s balance; and (iv) balance discrepancies. Consistent with past reports, this month’s issue lists the top ten most-complained-about companies across all financial products, as well as the top seven most-complained about companies for prepaid-related issues. Finally, the report identifies North Carolina as its geographical spotlight, observing that, as of October 1, 2016, the CFPB has received about 27,600 complaints from North Carolina consumers.

    Federal Issues CFPB Prepaid Cards Payments Consumer Complaints

  • Special Alert: Summary of CFPB's final prepaid rule

    Consumer Finance

    I. Overview of the CFPB's Final Prepaid Rule

    On October 5, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) issued a final rule (Prepaid Rule) amending Regulations E and Z to extend consumer protections to prepaid card accounts. The new protections include pre-acquisition disclosures, error resolution rights, and periodic statements. In addition, prepaid card accounts that include a separate credit feature are subject to some of Regulation Z’s credit card provisions, including an ability-to-repay requirement. Prepaid card issuers are also required to submit to the Bureau and to post to their websites any new and revised prepaid card account agreements. In this alert we summarize key provisions of the Prepaid Rule except those provisions that apply only to payroll and government benefits prepaid cards, which will be covered in a separate alert.

    II. Effective Date

    The Prepaid Rule’s effective date is October 1, 2017, however, the effective date for posting prepaid card account agreements is October 1, 2018. Heeding concerns about burden, the Bureau stated that the Prepaid Rule does not require financial institutions to pull and replace prepaid account access devices or packaging materials that were manufactured, printed, or otherwise produced in the normal course of business prior to October 1, 2017. Instead, financial institutions must provide consumers with notice of certain changes in terms and updated initial disclosures, in certain circumstances.

     

    Click here to read full Special Alert

     

    * * *

    Questions regarding the matters discussed in this Alert may be directed to any of our lawyers listed below, or to any other BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have consulted in the past.

    Consumer Finance CFPB Digital Commerce Prepaid Cards Special Alerts Payments Regulation Z Ability To Repay

  • FDIC Releases Report on the Unbanked; Captures Movement to Online Banking

    Federal Issues

    On October 20, the FDIC released a report on the use of the traditional banking system in the United States. According to the FDIC’s executive summary of the report, the percentage of U.S. households in which no one had a checking or savings account (the “unbanked”) dropped to 7.0 in 2015. This is the lowest unbanked percentage since 2009, the year the FDIC began conducting an annual survey of unbanked and underbanked households. The FDIC cited several reasons why some households remain unbanked, the most common of which was the cost of maintaining an account, with an estimated 57.4% of respondents citing it as a factor in their decision not to maintain an account, and 37.8% of respondents citing it as the main reason underlying their decision not to maintain an account. Consistent with past survey results, the report notes that unbanked and underbanked rates are higher among lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, minority households, and working-age disabled households. Additional findings highlighted in the report include: (i) a 1.9% increase from 2013-2015 in the use of prepaid cards; (ii) rapid growth (31.9% of users in 2015 compared to 23.2% in 2013) in the use of mobile and online banking, reflecting “promising opportunities to use the mobile platform to increase economic inclusion”; and (iii) an opportunity for banks to meet the credit needs of some households with an “unmet demand” for credit by “promoting the importance of building credit history, incorporating nontraditional data into underwriting, and increasing households’ awareness of personal credit products.”

    Federal Issues FDIC Banking Digital Commerce Prepaid Cards Mobile Banking Payments Online Banking

  • CFPB Releases Final Rule on Prepaid Financial Products; Chamber of Digital Commerce Comments on Scope of the Rule

    Federal Issues

    On October 5, the CFPB released its final rule on prepaid financial products, including traditional prepaid cards, mobile wallets, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic accounts with the ability to store funds. The rule is intended to provide consumers with additional federal protections under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act analogous to the protections checking account consumers receive. The following federal protections are included in the new rule: (i) financial institutions will be required to provide certain account information for free via telephone, online, and in writing upon request, unless periodic statements are provided; (ii) financial institutions must work with consumers who find errors on their accounts, including unauthorized or fraudulent charges, timely investigate and resolve these incidents, and restore missing funds when appropriate; and (iii) consumers will be protected against unauthorized transactions, such as withdrawals or purchases, if their prepaid cards are lost or stolen. The rule contains new “Know Before You Owe” prepaid disclosures similar to those used for mortgages and student financial aid offers. In addition to requiring two (one short, the other long) disclosure forms, the new rule requires that prepaid account issuers post agreement offers made available to the general public on their websites, submit all agreements to the CFPB, and make agreements that are not required to be posted on their website available to relevant consumers. The new rule also includes credit protections stemming primarily from the Truth in Lending Act and the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, including providing consumers with monthly credit billing statements, giving consumers reasonable time – at least 21 days – to repay their debt before incurring late fees, ensuring that consumers are able to repay the debt before making a credit offer, and limiting the fee and interest charges to 25% of the total credit limit during the first year an account is open. The rule, which has not yet been published in the Federal Register, has a general compliance date of October 1, 2017, but includes certain accommodations, one of which is an October 2018 effective date for the requirement that agreements be submitted to the CFPB.

    The Chamber of Digital Commerce submitted comments to the CFPB in December advocating that virtual currency products and services should fall outside the scope of the prepaid rule. Pursuant to the final rule, the CFPB found that “application of Regulation E and this final rule to such products and services is outside the scope of this rulemaking.”

    Federal Issues Consumer Finance Credit Cards CFPB Digital Commerce TILA Prepaid Cards Electronic Fund Transfer Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

  • FinCEN, Banking Agencies Release Guidance on Applying Customer Identification Program Requirements to Holders of Prepaid Cards

    Consumer Finance

    On March 21, the Federal Reserve, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and FinCEN published guidance to issuing banks (i.e., banks that authorize the use of prepaid cards) intended to clarify the application of customer identification program (CIP) requirements to prepaid cards. The guidance clarifies that when the issuance of a prepaid card creates an “account” as defined in CIP regulations, CIP requirements apply. The guidance indicates that a prepaid card should be treated as an account if it has attributes of a typical deposit product, including prepaid cards that provide the ability to reload funds or provide access to credit or overdraft features. Once an account has been opened, CIP regulations require identification of the “customer.” The guidance explains that the cardholder should be treated as the customer, even if the cardholder is not the named accountholder, but has obtained the card from a third party program manager who uses a pooled account with the bank to issue prepaid cards. Finally, the guidance stresses that third party program managers should be treated as agents, not customers, and that “[t]he issuing bank should enter into well-constructed, enforceable contracts with third-party program managers that clearly define the expectations, duties, rights, and obligations of each party in a manner consistent with [the] guidance.”

    FDIC Federal Reserve OCC NCUA Prepaid Cards FinCEN

  • CFPB Monthly Consumer Snapshot Highlights Complaints Related to Prepaid Products

    Consumer Finance

    On March 1, the CFPB released its most recent complaint report focusing on prepaid products. According to the report, as of February 1, 2016, consumers have submitted approximately 4,300 complaints specific to prepaid products. Findings related to prepaid products highlighted in the report include: (i) consumers are not able to access funds loaded to prepaid cards for extended periods of time; (ii) companies are refusing to re-issue cards with remaining balances to consumers before the originally issued card expires; (iii) consumers are facing various extra charges, such as replacement, monthly, inactivity, and PIN number change fees; and (iv) companies are freezing entire balances when a consumer files a claim to dispute an unexpected charge, making funds unavailable until the claim process is complete. The report also notes that “[c]onsumers who were victims of frauds or scams frequently complained that scammers instructed them to purchase prepaid cards in order to transfer funds to the fraud perpetrators.” 

    In addition to its focus on prepaid product based complaints, the report identifies the Houston, Texas metropolitan area as its geographical spotlight, noting that as of February 1, 2016, the CFPB has received approximately 63,200 industry-wide complaints from Texas consumers, with about 15,700 coming from Houston consumers alone. A review of the Texas complaints resulted in a highlight of the most-complained-about companies and the most-complained-about consumer financial products and services. Debt collection, mortgage, and credit reporting accounted for the top three most-complained about products in both the Texas sampling and for all consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database.

    CFPB Prepaid Cards Consumer Complaints

  • OIG for U.S. Postal Service Probes Expansion Into Financial Services

    Consumer Finance

    On May 21, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service (OIG) issued a report titled, “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services.” The report follows a January 2014 white paper issued by the OIG, which explored how the U.S. Postal Service could expand its provision of financial products to underserved Americans. The report summarizes five potential approaches for increasing the Postal Service’s financial services offerings, including: (i) expand current product offerings, which include paper money orders, international remittances, gift cards, and limited check cashing, as well as adjacent services  (e.g., bill pay, ATMs); (ii) develop one key partner to provide financial services offerings, including possible expansion to general purpose reloadable prepaid cards, small loans, and/or deposit accounts; (iii) develop different partners for each product; (iv) make the Postal Service a “marketplace” for distribution of financial products of an array of providers; and/or (v) license the Postal Service as a financial institution focused on the financially underserved (although the OIG is not recommending this approach). Factors to consider when determining which approach to take, if any, include the legal and regulatory landscape; the effectiveness of cash management systems; dedication of the internal team, and public awareness of existing and potential services offered.

    Gift Cards Prepaid Cards ATM Remittance Check Cashing Deposit Products

  • CFPB Holds Field Hearing On Prepaid Products, Proposes New Rule

    Fintech

    On November 13, the CFPB held a field hearing in Delaware to discuss its proposed rule regarding prepaid products. The proposal, which would amend Regulation E and Regulation Z, requires prepaid companies to provide certain protections under federal law.

    In his opening remarks, Director Cordray noted that the many prepaid card consumers are some of the most economically vulnerable among us and that such cards have few, if any, protections under federal consumer financial law. Cordray outlined the reasons the Bureau’s proposed rule would “fill key gaps” for consumers. First, the proposed rule would provide consumers free and easy access to account information. Second, the proposed rule would mandate that financial institutions work with consumers to investigate any errors on registered cards. Third, the proposed rule would protect consumers against fraud and theft. Fourth, the rule includes “Know Before You Owe” prepaid disclosures, which would highlight key costs associated with the cards. Fifth, where prepaid card providers also extend credit to consumers such offers would be treated the same as credit cards under the law.

    CFPB TILA Prepaid Cards EFTA Regulation Z

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