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CFPB To Establish Public Registry In Form Contracts For Consumer Rights And Protections

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a rule to establish a public registry of supervised nonbanks’ terms and conditions in “take it or leave it” form contracts that claim to waive or limit consumer rights and protections, like bankruptcy rights, liability amounts, or complaint rights. In some cases, terms and conditions in non-negotiable form contracts mislead consumers into believing the terms or conditions are legally enforceable. Under the proposed rule, nonbanks subject to the CFPB’s supervisory jurisdiction would need to submit information on terms and conditions in form contracts they use that seek to waive or limit individuals’ rights and other legal protections.

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That information would be posted in a registry that will be open to the public, including to other consumer financial protection enforcers.Many companies’ financial products and services require consumers to sign lengthy form contracts. The companies write the form contracts as well as define any choices offered, and consumers cannot negotiate. Some companies slip terms and conditions into their form contracts that try to take away consumer protections, try to limit how consumers exercise their rights, or try to quiet consumer complaints or criticism, and more broadly, the terms and conditions potentially undermine consumer financial protection law. There is often little choice for consumers except to sign these form contracts due both to their market pervasiveness and the critical role the products and services play in people’s daily lives.

Few examples of terms and conditions that would be included in the registry are those that:

  • Waive servicemembers’ legal protections.
  • Undermine credit reporting rights.
  • Limit lender liability for bank fees caused by a lender’s repeated debit attempt.
  • Mislead consumers by using unenforceable waivers in mortgage contracts.

The CFPB’s rule proposes to require nonbanks that are subject to CFPB supervision and that use form contracts to impose terms and conditions that limit or purport to limit consumer rights and legal protections to register with the CFPB. The proposed rule, if finalized, would:

  • Identify and collect information on form contract terms and conditions that seek to waive or limit consumer rights and other legal protections.
  • Increase market transparency and improve risk-based oversight.

Apart from specified exceptions, all nonbanks subject to CFPB supervisory jurisdiction, including those operating in payday lending, private student loan origination, and mortgage lending and servicing would be subject to this proposed rule. Larger participants operating in student loan servicing, automobile financing, consumer reporting, consumer debt collection, and international remittances would also be subject to the rule.

“Some companies seek to censor their customers and strip them of their rights by inserting fine print into non-negotiable contracts,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “The CFPB is proposing a registry of these contract clauses to find out where people are unable to speak up when they’ve been harmed.”

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