Tough federal and state law enforcement has turned up the heat on mortgage foreclosure rescue scams. So some operators are turning to auto loan modifications to make a fast buck on consumers in financial distress. In the first cases of their kind filed by the FTC, the agency is alleging that two unrelated California outfits charged hundreds of dollars in upfront fees, based on bogus claims they could reduce consumers’ monthly car notes and help them avoid The Repo Man.
Blog Posts Tagged with Credit and Loans
Take the case of one person who borrowed money from a payday loan operation the FTC has taken to court for allegedly illegal practices. According to the FTC, the consumer was told that a $500 loan would cost him $650 to repay. But by slicing and dicing repayments in a way that generated undisclosed fees, the defendants allegedly tried to charge him $1,925 to pay off the $500 loan — and threatened him with arrest when he balked.
If you have clients in the auto industry, you’ve seen the ads: “We’ll pay off your trade no matter what you owe . . . even if you’re upside down.” It’s an attractive claim to people struggling with their finances. But law enforcement settlements announced by the FTC with five dealers from around the country demonstrate the importance of giving people the straight story when making promises about trade-ins where negative equity is involved.
When the FTC conducts an investigation to see if a company has violated the law, it’s important that the process is efficient and not unduly burdensome on those involved. The FTC’s Rules of Practice lay out the procedures the Commission follows.
In the market for a $430 case of shower caps or some “dolphin shaped craft embellishments”? Have they got a deal for you! But for people who thought they were paying $99 up front and $19 a month for a credit card, all they got was access to the defendants’ online store, which sold bulk quantities of off-brand, overpriced items.
How consumers pay for things is changing. Pretty soon exasperated parents may start reminding kids that “mobile payments don’t grow on trees.” And if there’s a remake of “Jerry McGuire,” the sports agent may yell to his client “Show me the mobile payment!”
Last Friday, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding outlining how the agencies will work together. The CFPB — born out of the recent financial system overhaul — and the FTC now share responsibility for protecting consumers in the non-bank financial sector.
It may be tempting for a payment processor to look the other way about a client’s business practices, figuring it’s the merchant’s job to get proper consumer authorization for charges submitted for processing. But donning blinders can lead to regrettable results, as an FTC action against a payment processor shows.
In celebration of Halloween — and with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe — here’s our take on what companies can do to make sure spooky business practices don’t come back to haunt them.
Once upon a midnight lawful
Pondering practices, good and awful,
Reading through the U.S. Code
For dos and don’ts I parse and claw.
I came upon the Trade Commission’s
Section 5 with all revisions.
Next time you’re at the grocery store and flip around a package to check out the ingredients or calorie count, take the opportunity to remember the contribution of Virginia Knauer, who served Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan in high-level consumer affairs positions.
Ms. Knauer held some pretty daring opinions in her day. At a time when sellers of dog food — but not people food — had to disclose what was inside the package, she advocated for detailed product labeling.
Between the picture of the President and Vice-President standing in front of the American flag and the references to government funds to stabilize the economy, it’s understandable that people who signed up for the service advertised on the Grant Connect website thought they were on their way to landing a grant. Promoters even described Grant Connect as “a unique, consumer-friendly US government grant program that delivers all of the tools for the consumer to search multiple databases, write grant proposals, and deliver polished plans. . .”
FTC watchers will remember Phillip A. Flora. In the first case of its kind, the FTC alleged that Mr. Flora was a One-Man Message Machine, churning out a “mind-boggling” number of unsolicited commercial text messages pitching mortgage modification services. How many did he send? According to the FTC, <Carl Sagan voice> millions and millions </Carl Sagan voice>.
If you or your clients accept payment by credit or debit card, mark October 1st on your calendar. That’s the day new rules go into effect that could help lower your costs. The rules, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, cover four areas that could affect the day-to-day operation of your business.
According to the Consumer Services Protection Commission’s website, it’s a “National consumer protection agency and works For the Consumer to help avoid fraud, deception, and/or unfair business practices in the financial assistance marketplace.” The site went on to talk about the agency’s role in enforcing the law and educating consumers about how to “spot and avoid fraud and deception.” On the right was a blue and gold logo with the scales of justice and the winged wheel of commerce.
The FTC just announced more settlements with companies that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure. “Not relevant to our business,” you say? Think again.
OK, now that it’s just us, here’s a reminder that most resources in the BCP Business Center are in the public domain. Thus, according to 17 U.S.C. § 105, they’re not subject to copyright restrictions. (Sorry for the citation. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.) So you’re free to download, link, paste, tweet, like, dislike, and otherwise use FTC materials.
Savvy executives like to stay in the loop on FTC activities that could affect their industry. They make it a habit to scan the headlines or check for relevant workshops or reports. But there’s a third category of information a bit less understood: closing letters from BCP staff.
In the spirit of transparency, the agency posts them online. Here in the BCP Business Center, recent letters appear in the Compliance Documents section of each topic area.
Thinking about using a pre-checked box to obligate buyers in an online transaction? Maybe you’re considering a negative option arrangement without clearly and conspicuously disclosing the details of the deal. Or perhaps you’re an affiliate marketer who’s concluded that legal compliance is somebody else’s responsibility. A $4.8 million judgment entered by a federal court in California suggests you might want to reconsider those strategies.
As businesses executives have noticed, recent changes in the credit laws reflect a move toward more transparency. For example, it’s generally lawful to factor a consumer’s credit history into your decision about what rate to offer them. But last year, the FTC and Federal Reserve Board shed a little more light on that process by implementing the Risk-Based Pricing Rule.
Perhaps you see cops on the beat when they pass by your office. Maybe you serve on a committee with the Chief of Police or have a relative in the Sheriff’s Department. However you cross paths with local law enforcement, do them — and yourself — a favor by telling them about Consumer Sentinel.