After several years of rulemaking, amendments, and delays, the CFPB’s Prepaid Rule (the “Rule”) is finally set to take effect on April 1, 2019.  This rapidly approaching effective date means that prepaid issuers have only two months left to confirm that their prepaid programs and materials are fully compliant with the Rules’ complex and specific new requirements.

Ballard Spahr attorneys will hold a webinar, “The Prepaid Rule Takes Effect: Considerations for Properly Implementing the CFPB’s Prepaid Accounts Rule” to discuss key compliance considerations ahead of the Prepaid Rule’s effective date. The webinar will take place on February 27, 2019, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET and a registration form is available here.

The Rule brings most prepaid accounts within the consumer protection regime of Reg. E. The Rule also applies certain Reg. Z requirements to prepaid products involving credit features.  On top of the existing complexity of those regulations, the Rule adds provisions unique to prepaid accounts, including rigorous and specific requirements for pre-acquisition short and long form disclosures and disclosures on the prepaid access device itself. Because much of the Rule applies uniformly across the spectrum of prepaid products, many of the Rule’s real-world applications to actual products will require significant analysis beyond the language of the Rule itself, the CFPB’s samples and illustrations, and currently available guidance. This compliance challenge will require deep familiarity with the existing Reg. E and Reg. Z frameworks, the Rule itself and its rulemaking background, the Rule’s commentary in its current form, and the practical and legal implications of prepaid products.

Some of the complicated applications of the Rule include:

  • Proper formatting and wording of the pre-acquisition short and long form disclosure documents. Both formatting and wording require deep analysis where a prepaid product differs from the CFPB’s samples and illustrations.
  • Determining how many and which additional fees and fee types to disclose on the pre-acquisition short form disclosure.
  • Adequately describing each and every fee on the long form disclosure, including appropriate categorization and grouping of fee types.
  • Navigating the provisions and exceptions applicable to retail and telephone acquisition contexts.
  • Understanding other specific requirements and exceptions, including the tests and thresholds applicable to the posting and submission of cardholder agreements and the re-printing of existing consumer disclosure materials.
  • Applying Reg. Z requirements to hybrid prepaid accounts with credit features, including both disclosures and substantive provisions.
  • Determining where changes to the specific provisions for payroll or government benefit cards are required.
  • Harmonizing new terms and references across all existing product materials without jeopardizing compliance with Reg. E and Reg. Z, as amended by the Rule.

Prepaid issuers and other entities involved with the provision of prepaid products should take advantage of the remaining two months to confirm that their prepaid programs and documentation are fully compliant with the Rule. Compliance risks are particularly significant for prepaid programs in which a third-party program manager or similar entity with more limited compliance resources is responsible for preparing disclosures and consumer-facing materials.  It is even more important in such programs to bring adequate expertise into the review process early enough to work through necessary changes.

Confirming complete compliance with the Rule will require more analysis and diligence than many entities are accustomed to performing in the existing and relatively well-defined worlds of Reg. E and Reg. Z. The universe of prepaid products involves countless unusual or unique features that will not fit neatly within the CFPB’s new framework or model forms. In addition, because the Rule is new and interpretive guidance is limited, the compliance challenge it presents will be particularly difficult.  Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services group possesses the deep experience with prepaid and other consumer financial products necessary to help navigate the Rule’s complexity, its highly nuanced relationship with existing regulatory regimes, and its implications for specific prepaid account characteristics.

Webinar. On February 27, 2019, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET, Ballard Spahr attorneys will hold a webinar, “The Prepaid Rule Takes Effect: Considerations for Properly Implementing the CFPB’s Prepaid Accounts Rule,” to discuss key compliance considerations ahead of the Prepaid Rule’s effective date. The webinar registration form is available here.

We believe the CFPB’s recent RFI on the Bureau’s adopted regulations, which Acting Director Mulvaney discussed during his testimony before the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees, provides the prepaid industry an opportunity to persuade the Bureau to reconsider its prepaid rule that was issued in October 2016 and amended in January 2018.

As I stated during a panel discussion at the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association-American Banker Power of Prepaid Conference in Washington, DC earlier this week, this opportunity gives new life to industry officials who interpreted the Bureau’s decision to finalize the prepaid rule amendments without any significant changes to the amendments as proposed by former Director Cordray to mean that Acting Director Mulvaney would not reconsider any part of the prepaid rule.

We surmise that Acting Director Mulvaney’s finalization of the prepaid rule amendments was based on the mistaken belief that industry concerns were largely addressed by the amendments proposed in June 2017.  Because the most recent comment period was limited to the proposed amendments, we believe that Acting Director Mulvaney did not have an opportunity to consider other aspects of the prepaid rule that were not addressed by the amendments, such as the inclusion of certain digital wallets and onerous restrictions on overdraft and credit features.

Because the CFPB rulemaking resources will be prioritized and deployed in the near future, companies who want the CFPB to reconsider the prepaid rule (as it announced it plans to do with the payday and HMDA rules) should submit responses to the RFI well before the June 19, 2018 deadline.  We are working with clients and trade associations to submit responses to the various RFIs, including the RFI focusing on the adopted regulations.