Last week, the CFPB filed a lawsuit in Maryland federal court against two commonly-owned debt relief companies, their affiliated payment processor, and three individual principals for alleged violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
According to the CFPB’s complaint, the defendants’ alleged unlawful conduct included the following:
- Violating the TSR and CFPA by falsely telling consumers that the companies’ debt relief services were approved by the FTC and that the companies were authorized to “review, consult, and prepare consumer protection documents” on the consumer’s behalf. In addition, the companies used direct mailers displaying a seal that “shared several similarities with the Great Seal of the United States,” thereby creating a false net impression that they were affiliated with the federal government.
- Violating the TSR by charging advance fees before performing any work or in excess of the amount permitted by TSR and by failing to make required disclosures.
- Violating the TSR and CFPA by deceptively marketing the companies’ debt relief programs, such as by falsely claiming that the programs would eliminate debt that the companies deemed invalid and increase consumers’ credit scores.
The debt relief industry is currently under siege, facing a barrage of enforcement actions by the CFPB as well as FTC and state AG enforcement actions.