Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it has filed a proposed order with the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington that would require Washington-based Meracord LLC, a leading debt-settlement payment processor, to halt all illegal activities and pay a $1.376 million civil penalty for facilitating the collection of millions of dollars in illegal upfront fees from consumers. The CFPB charges that the company, which agreed to the terms of the court order, violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by helping multiple debt-settlement companies across the country "charge millions of dollars in unlawful fees to more than 11,000 consumers in multiple states." The rule forbids such fees from being collected before any of the consumers' debts have been settled so as to protect consumers from ending up further into debt. The bureau alleges "[n]early 5,000 of those consumers' accounts were closed without any of their debts being settled." CFPB pursued the company as a "centralized chokepoint" and continues to pursue enforcement actions against several debt-settlement providers that contracted with Meracord. During a press call, CFPB Deputy Director Steve Antonakes provided additional details about the proposed court order, which will not have the full force of the law until the presiding judge signs off. For more, read the full press release and the deputy director's remarks.
- How-to guide How-to guide: Avoiding false or misleading advertising (USA) Recently updated
- How-to guide How-to guide: Issues surrounding online advertising (USA) Recently updated
- Checklist Checklist: Online advertising directed to children (USA) Recently updated