The tag line used by the CFPB on its web site is, “We're on your side.” The CFPB prides itself as the U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat consumers fairly. This mission is no simple task. And, since we are all consumers, the CFPB professes to be looking out for each and every one of us.
In just six years, the CFPB has held companies accountable for questionable or illegal practices to the tune of $11.8 billion in relief, to some 29 million consumers, based on 1.1 million complaints. This is no small accomplishment.
Despite clouds on the political horizon, the CFPB continues on its core mission—with a critical eye on debt collection.
Last week, the CFPB sued a Cleveland, Ohio collection law firm – Weltman, Weinberg & Reis – alleging that it falsely represented -- in millions of collection letters and calls -- that attorneys were involved in collecting debt when no meaningful involvement had actually occurred. The CFPB claims that the firm and its lawyers are engaged in illegal debt collection practices through its form demand letters and collection calls, falsely implying that lawyers had reviewed the veracity of consumer's debt, when typically no such review had taken place.
Since the Weltman, Weinberg & Reis law firm regularly collects debt related to credit cards, installment loan contracts, mortgage loans and student loans, it is subject to the restrictions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA makes it unlawful for a debt collector to engage in deceptive practices. The Dodd-Frank Act considers such to be an unfair, deceptive or abusive act or practice – a UDAAP.
In the CFPB's complaint, it alleges that while the law firm collects debts nationwide, it only files collection lawsuits in seven states. The Bureau alleges that since typically, no attorney reviews any aspect of the consumer's individual debt or account in states other than the seven, no attorney has made an individual determination that the consumer owes the debt and is a potential candidate for litigation. Accordingly, the letters and calls were deceptive.
In addition to seeking an injunction, the Bureau's complaint also requests penalties and compensation for consumers harmed by such conduct.
So, last week provided another example of why the CFPB advertises that it is on the side of the consumer. Those fighting to preserve the CFPB intact, point to such actions as being in the best interest of the American people.