On November 23, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released Compliance Bulletin 2015-06 (“Bulletin”), which provides industry guidance on the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (“EFTA”) and Regulation E requirements for obtaining consumer authorizations for preauthorized electronic fund transfers (“EFTs”). The CFPB issued this Bulletin, in part, because it observed during its examinations that some companies are not fully complying with the EFTA and Regulation E. Principally, this Bulletin addresses two areas of concern: (i) obtaining the customer’s authorization for preauthorized EFTs over the telephone; and (ii) providing a copy of the authorization to the customer.
Regarding the first issue, the Bulletin reasserts and expands upon previous guidance provided by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The CFPB acknowledges that companies may receive a consumer’s authorization over the telephone, provided that the requirements contained in the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (“ESIGN Act”) for electronic records and signatures are met. Specifically, the Bulletin states that Regulation E may be satisfied if the consumer signs or similarly authenticates the authorization orally, including by entering a code into his or her telephone keypad or by the company recording and retaining the consumer’s oral authorization, so long as in both circumstances the consumer’s intent to sign the electronic record is captured. Importantly, the CFPB confirms that the ESIGN Act’s limited restriction on the use of oral recordings as electronic records—which are not allowed where the law requires that information be provided to a consumer in writing—does not apply to the preauthorization requirements of the EFTA and Regulation E, as set forth in 12 CFR § 1005.10(b), because neither requires that companies provide a writing to consumers when obtaining such authorizations. The CFPB also reminds companies that the recording of consumer conversations must comply with applicable state law.
Next, the Bulletin summarizes the EFTA and Regulation E requirement that persons that obtain an authorization for a preauthorized EFT must provide the consumer with a copy of the terms of the authorization, in either written or electronic form. The copy should contain the “important terms” of the authorization. Per the Bulletin, “important terms” include the recurring nature of the preauthorized EFTs, and the amount and timing of the payments that the customer agreed to make. The CFPB also confirms that as an alternative to providing a copy of the authorization, the company may provide a confirmation form containing the same important terms. Finally, the CFPB notes that it “encourages” companies that obtain a consumer’s authorization to provide a copy of such authorization before the company initiates the first preauthorized transfer.