Consumer Protection News April 2017

The following is a compendium of information that may be of interest to our AG offices who are dealing with consumer protection issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of the matters, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked materials.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Civil Investigative Demand for For-Profit Schools Documents Denied

A D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel has issued an opinion saying that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cannot force a for-profit college accrediting group to comply with an investigative demand to determine the group's accreditation method, saying the demand inadequately described the scope and purpose of the investigation.

Rulemaking

In an April 18 blog, the CFPB announced that it is updating its ex parte policy on rulemaking. The policy generally requires public disclosure of ex parte communications made to its decision-making staff about pending rules. Two key updates have been made to that policy: (1) a state entity exemption and (2) procedural improvements.

There is now an exemption for state entities, similar to the existing exemption for federal agencies, and includes state attorneys general, state bank regulatory authorities, and state agencies that license, supervise, or examine the offering of consumer financial products or services.

A final rule delaying the general effective date of the CFPB rule governing prepaid accounts has been issued. The rule will now take effect on April 1, 2018. In addition, the decision was made to revisit at least two substantive issues in the prepaid accounts rule through a separate notice and comment rulemaking process.

CFPB Reports

The CFPB has released its report of Supervisory Highlights for Spring 2017. In this issue, the CFPB report examination findings in the areas of mortgage servicing, mortgage origination, student loan servicing, and fair lending.

The CFPB has also released its Fair Lending Report 2016. This report describes the agency’s fair lending activities in prioritization, supervision, enforcement, rulemaking, interagency coordination, and outreach for calendar year 2016.

Also released by the CFPB was its Monthly Snapshot spotlighting student loan complaints. The snapshot provides information on both private and federal student loan borrowers’ reporting breakdowns in student loan servicing.

CFPB Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 21 (March 28, 2017) Available here

Federal Communications Commission

Announcements

FCC Chairman Pai has announced his intent to establish a new federal advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment. A public notice soliciting membership applications and providing additional details about the committee’s work will be forthcoming.

Reports

The Federal Communications Commission has issued its bi-annual Internet Access Services Report. This report, released earlier this month, covers the period of January 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016.

Also released was the FCC’s 16th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report. This report contains data and information that the FCC uses to analyze competition in the mobile wireless industry.

Federal Trade Commission

TRUSTe’s COPPA Safe Harbor Program

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking comments on proposed changes to TRUSTe’s safe harbor program under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, including an amendment that would require participants to conduct an annual internal assessment of third parties’ data collection practices.

Connected Cars

The FTC has extended the deadline until May for the public to submit comments on topics that should be examined as part of a June 28, 2017, workshop on the consumer privacy and security issues posed by automated and connected motor vehicles.

Military Consumer Financial Workshop

The FTC has announced that it is hosting a workshop in San Antonio, Texas, on July 19, 2017, to examine financial issues and scams that can affect military consumers, including active duty service members and veterans. The workshop seeks to bring together military consumer advocates, consumer groups, government representatives (local, state, and federal), military legal services and legal clinics, all service branches, and industry representatives. Panelists interested in participating in the workshop should contact the FTC.

Annual Highlights

The FTC has released its 2016 Annual Highlights, addressing the agency’s efforts to protect consumer and promote competition. Included in the report are the agency’s enforcement highlights focusing on key legal actions, including health care, technology, and other consumer products and services.

United States Department of Justice

IRS Collection Fraud Scheme

An Indian national has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through various telephone fraud and money laundering schemes via India-based call centers. The matter involved a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmadabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States. Victims were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay moneys alleged to be owed.

National Association of Attorneys General

New NAGTRI Center for Consumer Protection / Director

The National Association of Attorneys General announces the creation of its NAGTRI Center for Consumer Protection (CCP). The mission for the Center is to assist and enable attorneys general in protecting the public in the areas of consumer protection and charitable asset and entity oversight by providing information, technical assistance, and support; facilitating cooperation among attorney general staff through open dialogue and advanced communication systems; planning, organizing, and conducting training and seminars for the exchange of ideas and information on relevant matters; and promoting the development of effective programs and education for the protection of the public.

Abigail Stempson has been named as the Director of this newly established center. A native of Tecumseh, Nebraska, she joins the NAAG and NAGTRI staff having most recently been the chief of the Consumer Protection Bureau in the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, where she focused on consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices, nonprofit organizations, charitable trusts, tobacco enforcement, and antitrust matters.

NAAG Spring Consumer Protection Conference

The NAAG Spring Consumer Protection Conference will be held Monday, May 15 – Wednesday, May 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Monday from noon until 7:00 p.m., the public is invited to attend the conference. The public portion of the agenda will address matters including disruptive technologies, class action and CAFA, the effectiveness of notices and disclaimers, a look at the effect of the Spokeo case one year later, and social media marketing.


Mark Neil is the Editor of Consumer Protection News and may be reached at 202-326-6019. Consumer Protection News is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or in part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail mneil@naag.org.

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