The CFPB marketed its latest set of supervisory highlights as the “Junk Fees Special Edition.” The splashy headline is consistent with the agency’s recent focus on fees that it asserts are hidden from the competitive process. In speeches, press releases, and blog posts (and now a single proposed rule), the CFPB has
Abusive Acts and Practices
US FTC Succeeds in First Expanded Use of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Penalty Authority
Just into the new year, the FTC notched its first success in a creative theory to extend its monetary penalty authorities, which the Supreme Court trimmed back last year. In FTC v. RCG Advances, the FTC settled allegations that a small-business financing firm and its principals violated Section 521(a) of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Originally…
Court Dismisses Challenge to CFPB Payday Rule Repeal
A district court has dismissed a challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) repeal of the underwriting provisions of its 2017 payday rulemaking. The CFPB’s payday lending rule has a long and tortured history. First promulgated in 2017, the rule had two main prohibitions—a prohibition on making payday loans without assessing a borrower’s ability…
Chopra Makes a Statement About Markets (Both Literally and Figuratively)
On October 19, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued its first enforcement action under newly-confirmed Director Rohit Chopra, taking aim at a company that the CFPB found to misuse its position of market dominance. The nature of the CFPB’s claims and the manner in which they were presented is telling of the CFPB’s likely approach to enforcement under Chopra. The agency issued a consent order against JPay, LLC, which the order describes as a company that contracts with federal, state and local departments of corrections (“DOCs”) around the country to provide various products and services, including debit cards provided to individuals upon their release from incarceration. The debit cards may contain the consumer’s own funds from commissary or other accounts and may also contain Gate Money—funds provided by the government to the individual to help ease the transition upon release from incarceration. The consent order focuses on the company’s practices related to such debit cards.
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Abusiveness: Muddying the Waters
A little more than a month after rescinding its prior Policy Statement on abusive acts or practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has brought its first post-rescission abusiveness claim. In a complaint against a debt settlement company, the CFPB alleged that the company’s alleged practice of prioritizing the settlement of debts owed to affiliated lenders constituted an abusive act or practice. The complaint against the company quotes its website as stating that the company’s “‘skilled negotiators work to get your creditors to agree to discounted lump sum payoff amounts’” and quotes its sales scripts as saying that the company is “‘not owned or operated by any of your creditors.’” In reality, according to the complaint, the company’s owner was also the owner of one of the prioritized creditors and the owner of the other prioritized creditor was a former employee of the company’s owner. Taking these facts together, the CFPB alleged that the company violated the prong of the abusiveness prohibition that prohibits acts or practices that take unreasonable advantage of a consumer’s reasonable reliance on a company to act in the interests of the consumer.
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