Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans

SUMMARY

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau or CFPB) is issuing this final rule establishing regulations creating consumer protections for certain consumer credit products and the official interpretations to the rule. First, the rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered short-term or longer- term balloon-payment loans, including payday and vehicle title loans, without reasonably determining that consumers have the ability to repay the loans according to their terms. The rule exempts certain loans from the underwriting criteria prescribed in the rule if they have specific consumer protections. Second, for the same set of loans along with certain other high-cost longer-term loans, the rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice to make attempts to withdraw payment from consumers' accounts after two consecutive payment attempts have failed, unless the consumer provides a new and specific authorization to do so. Finally, the rule prescribes notices to consumers before attempting to withdraw payments from their account, as well as processes and criteria for registration of information systems, for requirements to furnish and obtain information from them, and for compliance programs and record retention. The rule prohibits evasions and operates as a floor leaving State and local jurisdictions to adopt further regulatory measures (whether a usury limit or other protections) as appropriate to protect consumers.

 
CONTENT

Federal Register, Volume 82 Issue 221 (Friday, November 17, 2017)

Federal Register Volume 82, Number 221 (Friday, November 17, 2017)

Rules and Regulations

Pages 54472-54921

From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov

FR Doc No: 2017-21808

Page 54471

Vol. 82

Friday,

No. 221

November 17, 2017

Part II

Book 2 of 2 Books

Pages 54471-55026

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

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12 CFR Part 1041

Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans; Final Rule

Page 54472

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BUREAU OF CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION

12 CFR Part 1041

Docket No. CFPB-2016-0025

RIN 3170-AA40

Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans

AGENCY: Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

ACTION: Final rule; official interpretations.

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SUMMARY: The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau or CFPB) is issuing this final rule establishing regulations creating consumer protections for certain consumer credit products and the official interpretations to the rule. First, the rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered short-term or longer-

term balloon-payment loans, including payday and vehicle title loans, without reasonably determining that consumers have the ability to repay the loans according to their terms. The rule exempts certain loans from the underwriting criteria prescribed in the rule if they have specific consumer protections. Second, for the same set of loans along with certain other high-cost longer-term loans, the rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice to make attempts to withdraw payment from consumers' accounts after two consecutive payment attempts have failed, unless the consumer provides a new and specific authorization to do so. Finally, the rule prescribes notices to consumers before attempting to withdraw payments from their account, as well as processes and criteria for registration of information systems, for requirements to furnish and obtain information from them, and for compliance programs and record retention. The rule prohibits evasions and operates as a floor leaving State and local jurisdictions to adopt further regulatory measures (whether a usury limit or other protections) as appropriate to protect consumers.

DATES: Effective Date: This regulation is effective January 16, 2018. Compliance Date: Sections 1041.2 through 1041.10, 1041.12, and 1041.13 have a compliance date of August 19, 2019.

Application Deadline: The deadline to submit an application for preliminary approval for registration pursuant to Sec. 1041.11(c)(1) is April 16, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarita Frattaroli, Counsel; Mark Morelli, Michael G. Silver, Steve Wrone, Senior Counsels; Office of Regulations; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at 202-435-7700 or cfpb_reginquiries@cfpb.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Summary of the Final Rule

On June 2, 2016, the Bureau issued proposed consumer protections for payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain high-cost installment loans. The proposal was published in the Federal Register on July 22, 2016.\1\ Following a public comment period and review of comments received, the Bureau is now issuing this final rule with consumer protections governing the underwriting of covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans, including payday and vehicle title loans. The rule also contains disclosure and payment withdrawal attempt requirements for covered short-term loans, covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, and certain high-cost covered longer-term loans.

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\1\ Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans, 81 FR 47864 (July 22, 2016).

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Covered short-term loans are typically used by consumers who are living paycheck to paycheck, have little to no access to other credit products, and seek funds to meet recurring or one-time expenses. The Bureau has conducted extensive research on these products, in addition to several years of outreach and review of the available literature. The Bureau issues these regulations primarily pursuant to its authority under section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) to identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.\2\ The Bureau is also using authorities under section 1022 of the Dodd-Frank Act to prescribe rules and make exemptions from such rules as is necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Federal consumer financial laws,\3\ section 1024 of the Dodd-Frank Act to facilitate supervision of certain non-bank financial service providers,\4\ and section 1032 of the Dodd-Frank Act to require disclosures to convey the costs, benefits, and risks of particular consumer financial products or services.\5\

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\2\ Public Law 111-203, section 1031(b), 124 Stat. 1376 (2010) (hereinafter Dodd-Frank Act).

\3\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1022(b).

\4\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1024(b)(7).

\5\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1032(a).

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The Bureau is not, at this time, finalizing the ability-to-repay determination requirements proposed for certain high-cost installment loans, but it is finalizing those requirements as to covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans. The Bureau is also finalizing certain disclosure, notice, and payment withdrawal attempt requirements as applied to covered short-term loans, longer-term balloon-payment loans, and high-cost longer-term loans at this time.

The Bureau is concerned that lenders that make covered short-term loans have developed business models that deviate substantially from the practices in other credit markets by failing to assess consumers' ability to repay their loans according to their terms and by engaging in harmful practices in the course of seeking to withdraw payments from consumers' accounts. The Bureau has concluded that there is consumer harm in connection with these practices because many consumers struggle to repay unaffordable loans and in doing so suffer a variety of adverse consequences. In particular, many consumers who take out these loans appear to lack the ability to repay them and face one of three options when an unaffordable loan payment is due: Take out additional covered loans (``re-borrow''), default on the covered loan, or make the payment on the covered loan and fail to meet basic living expenses or other major financial obligations. As a result of these dynamics, a substantial population of consumers ends up in extended loan sequences of unaffordable loans. Longer-term balloon-payment loans, which are less common in the marketplace today, raise similar risks.

In addition, many lenders may seek to obtain repayment of covered loans directly from consumers' accounts. The Bureau is concerned that consumers may be subject to multiple fees and other harms when lenders make repeated unsuccessful attempts to withdraw funds from their accounts. In these circumstances, further attempts to withdraw funds from consumers' accounts are very unlikely to succeed, yet they clearly result in further harms to consumers.

  1. Scope of the Rule

    The rule applies to two types of covered loans. First, it applies to short-term loans that have terms of 45 days or less, including typical 14-day and 30-day payday loans, as well as short-term vehicle title loans that are usually made for 30-day terms, and longer-term balloon-payment loans. The underwriting portion of the rule applies to these loans. Second, certain parts of the rule apply to longer-term loans with terms of more than 45 days that have (1) a cost of credit that exceeds 36 percent per annum; and (2) a form of ``leveraged

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    payment mechanism'' that gives the lender a right to withdraw payments from the consumer's account. The payments part of the rule applies to both categories of loans. The Bureau had proposed parallel underwriting requirements for high-cost covered longer-term loans. However, at this time, the Bureau is not finalizing the ability-to-repay portions of the rule as to covered longer-term loans other than those with balloon payments.

    The rule excludes or exempts several types of consumer credit, including: (1) Loans extended solely to finance the purchase of a car or other consumer good in which the good secures the loan; (2) home mortgages and other loans secured by real property or a dwelling if recorded or perfected; (3) credit cards; (4) student loans; (5) non-

    recourse pawn loans; (6) overdraft services and lines of credit; (7) wage advance programs; (8) no-cost advances; (9) alternative loans (similar to loans made under the Payday Alternative Loan program administered by the National Credit Union Administration); and (10) accommodation loans.

  2. Ability-to-Repay Requirements and Alternative Requirements for Covered Short-Term Loans

    The rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make covered short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loans without reasonably determining that the consumers will have the ability to repay the loans according to their terms. The rule prescribes requirements to prevent this practice and thus the specific harms to consumers that the Bureau has identified as flowing from the practice, including extended loan sequences for a substantial population of consumers.

    The first set of requirements addresses the underwriting of these loans. A lender, before making a covered short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loan, must make a reasonable determination that the consumer would be able to make the payments on the loan and be able to meet the consumer's basic living expenses and other major financial obligations without needing to re-borrow over the ensuing 30 days. Specifically, a lender is required to:

    Verify the consumer's net monthly income using a reliable record of income payment, unless a reliable record is not reasonably available;

    Verify the consumer's monthly debt obligations using a national consumer report and a consumer report from a ``registered information system'' as described below;

    Verify the consumer's monthly housing costs using a national consumer report if possible, or otherwise rely on the consumer's written statement of monthly housing expenses;

    Forecast a reasonable amount for basic living expenses, other than debt obligations and housing costs; and

    Determine the consumer's ability to repay the loan based on the lender's projections of the consumer's residual income or debt-

    to-income ratio.

    Furthermore, a lender is prohibited from making a covered short-

    term loan to a consumer who has already taken out three covered short-

    term or longer-term balloon-payment loans within 30 days of each other, for 30 days after the third loan is no longer outstanding.

    Second, and in the alternative, a lender is allowed to make a covered short-term loan without meeting all the specific underwriting criteria set out above, as long as the loan satisfies certain prescribed terms, the lender confirms that the consumer meets specified borrowing history conditions, and the lender provides required disclosures to the consumer. Among other conditions, under this alternative approach, a lender is allowed to make up to three covered short-term loans in short succession, provided that the first loan has a principal amount no larger than $500, the second loan has a principal amount at least one-third smaller than the principal amount on the first loan, and the third loan has a principal amount at least two-

    thirds smaller than the principal amount on the first loan. In addition, a lender is not allowed to make a covered short-term loan under the alternative requirements if it would result in the consumer having more than six covered short-term loans during a consecutive 12-

    month period or being in debt for more than 90 days on covered short-

    term loans during a consecutive 12-month period. A lender is not permitted to take vehicle security in connection with loans that are made according to this alternative approach.

  3. Payment Practices Rules

    The rule identifies it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make attempts to withdraw payment from consumers' accounts in connection with a short-term, longer-term balloon-payment, or high-cost longer-term loan after the lender's second consecutive attempts to withdraw payments from the accounts from which the prior attempts were made have failed due to a lack of sufficient funds, unless the lender obtains the consumers' new and specific authorization to make further withdrawals from the accounts. The Bureau found that in these circumstances, further attempted withdrawals are highly unlikely to succeed, but clearly impose harms on consumers who are affected. This prohibition on further withdrawal attempts applies whether the two failed attempts are initiated through a single payment channel or different channels, such as the automated clearinghouse system and the check network. The rule requires that lenders must provide notice to consumers when the prohibition has been triggered and follow certain procedures in obtaining new authorizations.

    In addition to the requirements related to the prohibition on further payment withdrawal attempts, a lender is required to provide a written notice, depending on means of delivery, a certain number of days before its first attempt to withdraw payment for a covered loan from a consumer's checking, savings, or prepaid account or before an attempt to withdraw such payment in a different amount than the regularly scheduled payment amount, on a date other than the regularly scheduled payment date, by a different payment channel than the prior payment, or to re-initiate a returned prior transfer. The notice must contain key information about the upcoming payment attempt and, if applicable, alert the consumer to unusual payment attempts. A lender is permitted to provide electronic notices as long as the consumer consents to electronic communications.

  4. Additional Requirements

    The rule requires lenders to furnish to provisionally registered and registered information systems certain information concerning covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans at loan consummation, during the period that the loan is an outstanding loan, and when the loan ceases to be an outstanding loan. To be eligible to become a provisionally registered or registered information system, an entity must satisfy the eligibility criteria prescribed in the rule. The rule provides for a registration process that will allow information systems to be registered, and lenders to be ready to furnish required information, at the time the furnishing obligation in the rule takes effect. Consumer reports provided by registered information systems will include a reasonably comprehensive record of a consumer's recent and current use of covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans. Before making covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans, a lender is required to obtain and consider a consumer report from a registered information system.

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    A lender is required to establish and follow a compliance program and retain certain records. A lender is also required to develop and follow written policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the requirements in this rule. Furthermore, a lender is required to retain the loan agreement and documentation obtained for any covered loan or an image thereof, as well as electronic records in tabular format regarding origination calculations and determinations for a short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loan, and regarding loan type and terms. The rule also includes an anti-evasion clause to address the kinds of concerns the Bureau noted in connection with the evasive actions that lenders in this market took in response to the regulations originally adopted on loans made to servicemembers under the Military Lending Act.

  5. Effective and Compliance Dates/Application Deadline \6\

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    \6\ The description of effective dates in this document differs from the description of effective dates in the final rule as issued on the Bureau's Web site on October 5, 2017, which provided that the regulation would be effective 21 months after date of publication in the Federal Register, except for Sec. 1041.11, which would be effective 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. The rule published in the Federal Register provides that, for purposes of codification in the Code of Federal Regulations, this regulation is effective 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. Sections 1041.2 through 1041.10, 1041.12, and 1041.13 have a compliance date of 21 months after date of publication in the Federal Register. This change is a technical correction to allow for clear cross-references within sections in the Code of Federal Regulations. It is not substantive and does not affect the dates by which regulated entities must comply with sections of the regulation.

    Other minor technical corrections and clarifications have been made to the final rule as issued on the Bureau's Web site on October 5, 2017. To the extent that section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553, applies, there is good cause to publish all of these changes without notice and comment. Under the APA, notice and opportunity for public comment are not required if the Bureau finds that notice and public procedure thereon are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). The Bureau has determined that notice and comment are unnecessary because the technical corrections in this final rule allow for proper formatting in the Code of Federal Regulations, correct inadvertent technical errors, and align and harmonize provisions of the regulation. These changes are routine and insignificant in nature and impact, and do not change the scope of the rule or regulatory burden. Therefore, the technical corrections are adopted in final form.

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    The final rule will become effective January 16, 2018, 60 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. Compliance with Sec. Sec. 1041.2 through 1041.10, 1041.12, and 1041.13 will be required beginning August 19, 2019, 21 months after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The deadline to submit an application for preliminary approval for registration pursuant to Sec. 1041.11(c)(1) will be April 16, 2018, 150 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The effective and compliance dates and application deadline are structured to facilitate an orderly implementation process.

    II. Background

  6. Introduction

    For most consumers, credit provides a means of purchasing goods or services and spreading the cost of repayment over time. This is true of the three largest consumer credit markets: The market for mortgages ($10.3 trillion in outstanding balances), for student loans ($1.4 trillion), and for auto loans ($1.1 trillion). This is also one way in which certain types of open-end credit--including home equity loans ($0.13 trillion) and lines of credit ($0.472 trillion)--and at least some credit cards and revolving credit ($1.0 trillion)--can be used.\7\

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    \7\ See Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., ``Mortgage Debt Outstanding (Table 1.54),'' (June 2017) (mortgages (one- to four-family)), available at http://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/releases/mortoutstand/current.htm; Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., ``Consumer Credit--G.19: July 2017,'' (Sept. 8, 2017) (student loans, auto loans, and revolving credit), available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/current/default.htm; Experian-Oliver Wyman, ``2017 Q2 Market Intelligence Report: Home Equity Loans Report,'' at 16 fig. 21 (2017) and Experian-Oliver Wyman, ``2017 Q2 Market Intelligence Report: Home Equity Lines Report,'' at 21 fig. 30 (2017) (home equity loans and lines of credit outstanding estimates), available at http://www.marketintelligencereports.com.

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    In addition to the credit markets described above, consumers living paycheck to paycheck and with little to no savings have also used credit as a means of coping with financial shortfalls. These shortfalls may be due to mismatched timing between income and expenses, misaligned cash flows, income volatility, unexpected expenses or income shocks, or expenses that simply exceed income.\8\ According to a recent survey conducted by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve Board), 44 percent of adults reported they would either be unable to cover an emergency expense costing $400 or would have to sell something or borrow money to cover it, and 30 percent reported that they found it ``difficult to get by'' or were ``just getting by'' financially.\9\ Whatever the cause of these financial shortfalls, consumers in these situations sometimes seek what may broadly be termed a ``liquidity loan.'' \10\ There are a variety of loans and products that consumers use for these purposes including credit cards, deposit account overdraft, pawn loans, payday loans, vehicle title loans, and installment loans.

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    \8\ See generally Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

    \9\ Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., ``Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016,'' at 2, 8 (May 2017), available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2016-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201705.pdf.

    \10\ If a consumer's expenses consistently exceed income, a liquidity loan is not likely to be an appropriate solution to the consumer's needs.

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    Credit cards and deposit account overdraft services are each already subject to specific Federal consumer protection regulations and requirements. The Bureau generally considers these markets to be outside the scope of this rulemaking as discussed further below. The Bureau is also separately engaged in research and evaluation of potential rulemaking actions on deposit account overdraft.\11\

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    Another liquidity option--pawn--generally involves non-recourse loans made against the value of whatever item a consumer chooses to give the lender in return for the funds.\12\ The consumer has the option to either repay the loan or permit the pawnbroker to retain and sell the pawned property at the end of the loan term, relieving the borrower from any additional financial obligation. This feature distinguishes pawn loans from most other types of liquidity loans. The Bureau is excluding non-recourse possessory pawn loans, as described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(5), from the scope of this rulemaking.

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    \11\ Credit cards and deposit overdraft services would have been excluded from the proposed rule under proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(3) and (6) as discussed further below. On October 5, 2016, the Bureau released a final rule on prepaid accounts. Among other things, the rule regulates overdraft credit features offered in connection with prepaid accounts, and generally covers under Regulation Z's credit card rules any such credit feature that is offered by the prepaid account issuer, its affiliate, or its business partner where credit can be accessed in the course of a transaction conducted with a prepaid card. 81 FR 83934 (Nov. 22, 2016). The Bureau later published a final rule delaying the October 1, 2017, effective date of that rule by six months, to April 1, 2018. 82 FR 18975 (Apr. 25, 2017). In preparation for a potential rulemaking regarding possible consumer protection concerns with overdraft programs on checking accounts, the Bureau issued the Notice and Request for Information on the Impacts of Overdraft Programs on Consumers, 77 FR 12031 (Feb. 28, 2012); see Kelly Cochran, ``Spring 2017 Rulemaking Agenda,'' CFPB Blog (July 20, 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/spring-2017-rulemaking-agenda/. In 2015, banks with over $1 billion in assets reported overdraft and NSF (nonsufficient funds) fee revenue of $11.16 billion. See Gary Stein, ``New Insights on Bank Overdraft Fees and 4 Ways to Avoid Them,'' CFPB Blog (Feb. 25, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/new-insights-on-bank-overdraft-fees-and-4-ways-to-avoid-them/. The $11.16 billion total does not include credit union overdraft fee revenue and does not separate out overdraft from NSF amounts but overall, overdraft fee revenue accounts for about 72 percent of that amount. Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Data Point: Checking Account Overdraft,'' at 10 (2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_report_data-point_overdrafts.pdf. The Federal Reserve Board has adopted a set of regulations of overdraft services. See Electronic Fund Transfers, 75 FR 31665 (June 4, 2010). In addition, the Bureau has published three research reports on overdraft. See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Data Point: Frequent Overdrafters'' (2017), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201708_cfpb_data-point_frequent-overdrafters.pdf; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Data Point: Checking Account Overdraft'' (2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_report_data-point_overdrafts.pdf; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Study of Overdraft Programs: A White Paper of Initial Data Findings'' (2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201306_cfpb_whitepaper_overdraft-practices.pdf (hereinafter ``CFPB Study of Overdraft Programs White Paper'').

    \12\ Pawn lending, also known as pledge lending, has existed for centuries, with references to it in the Old Testament; pawn lending in the U.S. began in the 17th century. See Susan Payne Carter, ``Payday Loan and Pawnshop Usage: The Impact of Allowing Payday Loan Rollovers,'' at 5 (Jan. 15, 2012), available at https://my.vanderbilt.edu/susancarter/files/2011/07/Carter_Susan_JMP_Web site2.pdf. The two largest pawn firms, EZCORP and FirstCash, account for about 13 percent of approximately 13,000 pawn storefronts. The remaining storefronts are operated by small, independent firms. EZCORP, ``Investor Update: Business Transformation Delivering Results,'' at 7 (Mar. 7, 2017), available at http://investors.ezcorp.com/download/Investor+Presentation_030717.pdf. FirstCash, Inc., is the company resulting from the September 2016 merger of FirstCash Financial Services and Cash America. FirstCash operates in 26 States. FirstCash, Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-

    K), at 1 (Mar. 1, 2017). See generally, John P. Caskey, ``Fringe Banking: Cash-Checking Outlets, Pawnshops, and the Poor,'' at Chapter 2 (New York: Russell Sage Foundation 1994).

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    This rulemaking is focused on two general categories of liquidity loan products: (1) Short-term loans and longer-term balloon-payment loans; and (2) with regard to payment practices, a broader set of liquidity loan products that also includes certain higher-cost longer-

    term installment loans. The largest category of short-term loans are ``payday loans,'' which are generally required to be repaid in a lump-

    sum single-payment on receipt of the borrower's next income payment, and short-term vehicle title loans, which are also almost always due in a lump-sum single-payment, typically within 30 days after the loan is made. The final rule's underwriting requirements also apply to depository advance products and other loans of 45 days or less in duration, as well as certain longer-term balloon-payment loans that generally involve a series of small, often interest-only, payments followed by a single final large lump sum payment. The final rule's payment presentment requirements apply to short-term and longer-term balloon-payment products, as well as to certain higher-cost longer-term installment loans. That latter category includes what are often referred to as ``payday installment loans''--that is, loans that are repaid in multiple installments with each installment typically due on the borrower's payday or regularly scheduled income payment and with the lender having the ability to automatically collect payments from an account into which the income payment is deposited. In addition, the latter category includes certain high-cost installment loans made by more traditional finance companies.

    This rulemaking includes both closed-end loans and open-end lines of credit.\13\ As described in the section-by-section analysis, the Bureau has been studying these markets for liquidity loans for over five years, gaining insights from a variety of sources. During this time the Bureau has conducted supervisory examinations of a number of payday lenders and enforcement investigations of a number of different types of liquidity lenders, which have given the Bureau insights into the business models and practices of such lenders. Through these processes, and through market monitoring activities, the Bureau also has obtained extensive loan-level data that the Bureau has studied to better understand risks to consumers.\14\ The Bureau has published five reports based upon these data.\15\ The Bureau has also carefully reviewed the published literature with respect to small-dollar liquidity loans and a number of outside researchers have presented their research at seminars for Bureau staff. In addition, over the course of the past five years the Bureau has engaged in extensive outreach with a variety of stakeholders in both formal and informal settings, including several Bureau field hearings across the country specifically focused on the subject of small-dollar lending, meetings with the Bureau's standing advisory groups, meetings with State and Federal regulators, meetings with consumer advocates, religious groups, and industry trade associations, Tribal consultations, and through a Small Business Review Panel process as described further below. As described in Summary of the Rulemaking Process, the Bureau received and reviewed over one million comments on its proposal, mostly from lenders and borrowers within the respective markets.

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    \13\ The Dodd-Frank Act does not define ``payday loan,'' though it refers to the term in section 1024(a)(1)(E), and the Bureau is not proposing to define it in this rulemaking. The Bureau may do so in a subsequent rulemaking or in another context. In addition, the Bureau notes that various State, local, and Tribal jurisdictions may define ``payday loans'' in ways that may be more or less coextensive with the coverage of the Bureau's rule.

    \14\ Information underlying this proposed rule is derived from a variety of sources, including from market monitoring and outreach, third-party studies and data, consumer complaints, the Bureau's enforcement and supervisory work, and the Bureau's expertise generally. In publicly discussing information, the Bureau has taken steps not to disclose confidential information inappropriately and to otherwise comply with applicable law and its own rules regarding disclosure of records and information. See 12 CFR 1070.41(c).

    \15\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products: A White Paper of Initial Data Findings'' (2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201304_cfpb_payday-dap-whitepaper.pdf hereinafter ``CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper''; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending'' (2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201403_cfpb_report_payday-lending.pdf hereinafter ``CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending''; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Online Payday Loan Payments'' (2016), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201604_cfpb_online-payday-loan-payments.pdf hereinafter CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending'' (2016), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201605_cfpb_single-payment-vehicle-title-lending.pdf hereinafter ``CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending''; Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supplemental Findings on Payday, Payday Installment, and Vehicle Title Loans, and Deposit Advance Products'' (2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/supplemental-findings-payday-payday-installment-and-vehicle-title-loans-and-deposit-advance-products/ (hereinafter ``CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings'').

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    This Background section provides a brief description of the major components of the markets for short-term loans and longer-term balloon-

    payment loans, describing the product parameters, industry size and structure, lending practices, and business models of major market segments. The Background section also provides a brief overview of the additional markets for higher-cost longer-term installment loans that are subject to the payment practices components of the final rule. This section also describes recent State and Federal regulatory activity in connection with these various product markets. Market Concerns--

    Underwriting below, provides a more detailed description of consumer experiences with short-term loans describing research about which consumers use the products, why they use the products, and the outcomes they experience as a result of the product structures and industry practices. The Background section also includes an

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    extensive description of the methods by which lenders initiate payments from consumers' accounts. Market Concerns--Payments, below, describes consumer experiences and concerns with these payment practices. Most of the comments received on the proposal's Background section agreed in general terms with the descriptions of the markets and products described below, although there may be slight differences in individual lenders' loan products and business practices. Comments that provided significantly different information are noted below.

  7. Short-Term, Hybrid, and Balloon-Payment Loans

    Providing short-term loans for liquidity needs has been a long-term challenge in the consumer financial services market due to the fixed costs associated with loan origination regardless of loan size. At the beginning of the twentieth century, concern arose with respect to companies that were responding to liquidity needs by offering to ``purchase'' a consumer's paycheck in advance of it being paid. These companies charged fees that, if calculated as an annualized interest rate, were as high as 400 percent.\16\ To address these concerns, between 1914 and 1943, 34 States enacted a form of the Uniform Small Loan Law, which was a model law developed by the Russell Sage Foundation. That law provided for lender licensing and permitted interest rates of between 2 and 4 percent per month, or 24 to 48 percent per year. Those rates were substantially higher than pre-

    existing usury limits (which generally capped interest rates at between 6 and 8 percent per year) but were viewed by proponents as ``equitable to both borrower and lender.'' \17\

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    \16\ Salary advances were structured as wage assignments rather than loans to evade much lower State usury caps of about 8 percent per annum or less. John P. Caskey, ``Fringe Banking and the Rise of Payday Lending,'' at 17, 23 (Patrick Bolton & Howard Rosenthal eds., New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005).

    \17\ Elisabeth Anderson, ``Experts, Ideas, and Policy Change: The Russell Sage Foundation and Small Loan Reform, 1909-1941,'' 37 Theory & Soc'y 271, 276, 283, 285 (2008), available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/40211037 (quoting Arthur Ham, Russell Sage Foundation, Feb. 1911, Quarterly Report, Library of Congress Russell Sage Foundation Archive, Box 55).

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    New forms of short-term small-dollar lending appeared in several States in the 1990s,\18\ starting with check cashing outlets that would hold a customer's personal check for a period of time for a fee before cashing it (``check holding'' or ``deferred presentment''). One of the larger payday lenders began making payday loans in Kansas in 1992, and that same year at least one State regulator issued an administrative interpretation holding that deferred presentment activities were consumer loans subject to that State's licensing and consumer lending laws.\19\ One commenter described his role in developing and expanding the deferred presentment lending industry in Tennessee in the early 1990s prior to any regulation in that State, while noting that those same activities required lending licenses in two nearby States.

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    \18\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``A Short History of Payday Lending Law,'' (July 18, 2012), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2012/07/a-short-history-of-payday-lending-law.

    \19\ QC Holdings, Inc., Registration Statement (Form S-1), at 1 (May 7, 2004);), see, e.g., Laura Udis, Adm'r Colo. Dep't of Law, Unif. Consumer Credit Code, ``Check Cashing Entities Which Provide Funds In Return For A Post-Dated Check Or Similar Deferred Payment Arrangement And Which Impose A Check Cashing Charge Or Fee May Be Consumer Lenders Subject To The Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code,'' Administrative Interpretation No. 3.104-9201 (June 23, 1992) (on file).

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    Several market factors converged around the same time that spurred the development of these new forms of short-term small-dollar lending. Consumers were using credit cards more frequently for short-term liquidity lending needs, a trend that continues today.\20\ Storefront finance companies, described below in part II.C, that had provided small loans changed their focus to larger, collateralized products, including vehicle financing and real estate secured loans. At the same time there was substantial consolidation in the storefront installment lending industry. Depository institutions similarly moved away from short-term small-dollar loans.

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    \20\ Robert D. Manning, ``Credit Card Nation: The Consequences of America's Addiction to Credit'' (Basic Books 2000); Amy Traub, ``Debt Disparity: What Drives Credit Card Debt in America,'' Demos (2014), available at http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/DebtDisparity_1.pdf.

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    Around the same time, a number of State legislatures amended their usury laws to allow lending by a broader group of both depository and non-depository lenders by increasing maximum allowable State interest rates or eliminating State usury laws, while other States created usury carve-outs or special rules for short-term loans.\21\ The confluence of these trends has led to the development of markets offering what are commonly referred to as payday loans (also known as cash advance loans, deferred deposit, and deferred presentment loans depending on lender and State law terminology), and short-term vehicle title loans that are much shorter in duration than vehicle-secured loans that have traditionally been offered by storefront installment lenders and depository institutions. Although payday loans initially were distributed through storefront retail outlets, they are now also widely available on the Internet. Vehicle title loans are typically offered exclusively at storefront retail outlets.

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    \21\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``A Short History of Payday Lending Law'' (July 18, 2012). This article notes that State legislative changes were in part a response to the ability of Federally- and State-chartered banks to lend without being subject to the usury laws of the borrower's State.

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    These markets as they have evolved over the last two decades are not strictly segmented. There is substantial overlap between market products and the borrowers who use them. For example, in a 2015 survey, almost 14.8 percent of U.S. households that had used a payday loan in the prior year had also used a vehicle title loan.\22\ There is also an established trend away from ``monoline'' or single-product lending companies. Thus, for example, a number of large payday lenders also offer vehicle title and installment loans.\23\ The following discussion nonetheless provides a description of major product types.

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    \22\ Estimates by the Bureau's Office of Research are based on data derived from FDIC. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households'' (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf.

    \23\ See, e.g., Advance America, ``Title Loan Services,'' available at https://www.advanceamerica.net/services/title-loans (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); FirstCash, ``Own Your Car? Need Cash Now? Drive Away with Cash in Minutes,'' available at http://ww2.firstcash.com/title-loans (last visited May 15, 2017); Check Into Cash, ``Auto Title Loans,'' available at https://checkintocash.com/commercial/auto-title-loans/ (last visited Sept. 14, 2017); Community Choice Financial/CheckSmart ``Get Cash Fast,'' available at https://www.ccfi.com/checksmart/ (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); Speedy Cash, ``Title Loans,'' available at https://www.speedycash.com/title-loans/ (last visited Sept. 14, 2017); PLS Financial Services, ``Title Loans,'' available at http://pls247.com/il/loans.html (last visited Mar. 3, 2016). Moneytree offers vehicle title and installment loans in Idaho and Nevada. See, e.g., Money Tree Inc., ``Title Loans (Idaho),'' available at https://www.moneytreeinc.com/loans/idaho/title-loans (last isited Mar. 3, 2016); Money Tree Inc., ``Title Loans (Nevada),'' available at https://www.moneytreeinc.com/loans/nevada/title-loans (last visited Mar. 3, 2016).

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    Storefront Payday Loans

    The market that has received the greatest attention among policy makers, advocates, and researchers is the market for single-payment payday loans. These payday loans are short-term small-dollar loans generally repayable in a single payment due when the consumer is scheduled to receive a paycheck or other inflow of income (e.g., government

    Page 54477

    benefits).\24\ For most borrowers, the loan is due in a single payment on their payday, although State laws with minimum loan terms--seven days for example--or lender practices may affect the loan duration in individual cases. The Bureau refers to these short-term payday loans available at retail locations as ``storefront payday loans,'' but the requirements for borrowers taking online payday loans are generally similar, as described below. There are now 35 States that either have created a carve-out from their general usury cap for payday loans or have no usury caps on consumer loans.\25\ The remaining 15 States and the District of Columbia either ban payday loans or have fee or interest rate caps that payday lenders apparently find too low to sustain their business models. As discussed further below, several of these States previously had authorized payday lending but subsequently changed their laws.

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    \24\ For convenience, this discussion refers to the next scheduled inflow of income as the consumer's next ``payday'' and the inflow itself as the consumer's ``paycheck'' even though these are misnomers for consumers whose income comes from government benefits.

    \25\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``State Payday Loan Regulation and Usage Rates'' (Jan. 14, 2014), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/multimedia/data-visualizations/2014/state-payday-loan-regulation-and-usage-rates (for a list of States). Other reports reach slightly different totals of payday authorizing States depending on their categorization methodology. See, e.g., Susanna Montezemolo, ``The State of Lending in America & Its Impact on U.S. Households: Payday Lending Abuses and Predatory Practices,'' at 32-

    33 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending 2013), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/uploads/10-payday-loans.pdf; Consumer Fed'n of Am., ``Legal Status of Payday Loans by State,'' available at http://www.paydayloaninfo.org/state-information (last visited Apr. 6, 2016) (lists 32 States as having authorized or allowed payday lending). Since publication of these reports, South Dakota enacted a 36 percent usury cap for consumer loans. Press Release, S.D. Dep't of Labor and Reg., ``Initiated Measure 21 Approved'' (Nov. 10, 2016), available at http://dlr.sd.gov/news/releases16/nr111016_initiated_measure_21.pdf. Legislation in New Mexico prohibiting short-term payday and vehicle title loans will go into effect on January 1, 2018. Regulatory Alert, N.M. Reg. and Licensing Dep't, ``Small Loan Reforms,'' available at http://www.rld.state.nm.us/uploads/files/HB%20347%20Alert%20Final.pdf.

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    Product definition and regulatory environment. As noted above, payday loans are typically repayable in a single payment on the borrower's next payday. In order to help ensure repayment, in the storefront environment the lender generally holds the borrower's personal check made out to the lender--usually post-dated to the loan due date in the amount of the loan's principal and fees--or the borrower's authorization to electronically debit the funds from her checking account, commonly known as an automated clearing house (ACH) transaction.\26\ Payment methods are described in more detail below in part II.D.

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    \26\ The Bureau is aware from market outreach that at a storefront payday lender's Tennessee branch, almost 100 percent of customers opted to provide ACH authorization rather than leave a post-dated check for their loans. See also Speedy Cash, ``Can Anyone Get a Payday Loan?,'' available at https://www.speedycash.com/faqs/payday-loans/ (last visited Feb. 4, 2016) (``If you choose to apply in one of our payday loan locations, you will need to provide a repayment source which can be a personal check or your bank routing information.''); QC Holdings, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 3, 6 (Mar. 12, 2015); FirstCash, Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 21.

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    Payday loan sizes vary depending on State law limits, individual lender credit models, and borrower demand. Many States set a limit on payday loan size; $500 is a common loan limit although the limits range from $300 to $1,000.\27\ In 2013, the Bureau reported that the median loan amount for storefront payday loans was $350, based on supervisory data.\28\ This finding is broadly consistent with other studies using data from one or more lenders as well as with self-reported information in surveys of payday borrowers \29\ and State regulatory reports.\30\

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    \27\ At least 19 States cap payday loan amounts between $500 and $600 (Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia), California limits payday loans to $300 (including the fee), and Delaware caps loans at $1,000. Ala. Code sec. 5-18A-12(a); Alaska Stat. sec. 06.50.410; Cal. Fin. Code sec. 23035(a); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2227(7); Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(5); Haw. Rev. Stat. sec. 480F-4(c); Iowa Code sec. 533D.10(1)(b); Kan. Stat. Ann. sec. 16a-2-404(1)(c); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 286.9-100(9); Mich. Comp. Laws sec. 487.2153(1); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-519(2); Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 408.500(1); Neb. Rev. Stat. sec. 45-919(1)(b); N.D. Cent. Code sec. 13-08-12(3); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. sec. 1321.39(A); Okla. Stat. tit. 59, sec. 3106(7), R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 19-14.4-5.1(a); S.C. Code Ann. sec. 34-39-180(B); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-17-112(o); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-1816(5). States that limit the loan amount to the lesser of a percent of the borrower's income or a fixed-dollar amount include Idaho--25 percent or $1,000, Illinois--25 percent or $1,000, Indiana--20 percent or $550, Washington--30 percent or $700, and Wisconsin--35 percent or $1,500. At least two States cap the maximum payday loan at 25 percent of the borrower's gross monthly income (Nevada and New Mexico). A few States' laws are silent as to the maximum loan amount (Utah and Wyoming). Idaho Code Ann. secs. 28-46-413(1), (2); 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 122/2-5(e); Ind. Code secs. 24-4.5-7-402, 404; Nev. Rev. Stat. sec. 604A.425(1)(b); N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-15-32(A); Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-23-401; Wash. Rev. Code sec. 31.45.073(2); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14(12)(b); Wyo. Stat. Ann. sec. 40-14-363. As noted above, the New Mexico statute will be repealed on Jan. 1, 2018. See N.M. H.B. 347, 53d Leg., 1st Sess. (N.M. 2017), available at https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/17%20Regular/final/HB0347.pdf (hereinafter N.M. H.B. 347).

    \28\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 15.

    \29\ Leslie Parrish & Uriah King, ``Phantom Demand: Short-term Due Date Generates Need for Repeat Payday Loans, Accounting for 76% of Total Volume,'' at 21 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending 2009), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/phantom-demand-final.pdf (reporting $350 as the average loan size); Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 9 (Report 3, 2013), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/

    uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf (reporting $375 as the average). Leslie Parrish & Uriah King, Ctr.

    \30\ See, e.g., Ill. Dep't. of Fin. & Prof. Reg., ``Illinois Trends Report All Consumer Loan Products Through December 2015,'' at 15 (Apr. 14, 2016), available at http://www.idfpr.com/DFI/CCD/pdfs/IL_Trends_Report%202015-%20FINAL.pdf?ActID=1204&ChapterID=20) ($355.85 is the average for Illinois); Idaho Dep't. of Fin., ``Idaho Credit Code `Fast Facts','' at 5 (Fiscal and Annual Report Data as of January 1, 2016), available at https://www.finance.idaho.gov/ConsumerFinance/Documents/Idaho-Credit-Code-Fast-Facts-With-Fiscal-Annual-Report-Data-01012016.pdf ($350 is the average for Idaho); Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 6 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf ($387.35 is the average for Washington). For example: $355.85 (Illinois average, see Ill.

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    The fee for a payday loan is generally structured as a percentage or dollar amount per $100 borrowed, rather than a periodic interest rate based on the amount of time the loan is outstanding. Many State laws set a maximum amount for these fees, with 15 percent ($15 per $100 borrowed) being the most common limit.\31\ The median storefront payday loan fee is $15 per $100; thus for a $350 loan, the borrower must repay $52.50 in finance charges together with the $350 borrowed for a total repayment amount of $402.50.\32\ The annual percentage rate (APR) on a 14-day loan with these terms is 391 percent.\33\ For payday borrowers

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    who receive monthly income and thus receive a 30-day or monthly payday loan--many of whom are Social Security recipients \34\--a $15 per $100 charge on a $350 loan for a term of 30 days equates to an APR of about 180 percent. The Bureau has found the median loan term for a storefront payday loan to be 14 days, with an average term of 18.3 days. The longer average loan duration is due to State laws that require minimum loan terms that may extend beyond the borrower's next pay date.\35\ Fees and loan amounts are higher for online loans, described in more detail below.

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    \31\ Of the States that expressly authorize payday lending, Rhode Island has the lowest cap at 10 percent of the loan amount. Florida has the same fee amount but also allows a flat $5 verification fee. Oregon's fees are $10 per $100 capped at $30 plus 36 percent interest. Some States have tiered caps depending on the size of the loan. Generally, in these States the cap declines with loan size. However, in Mississippi, the cap is $20 per $100 for loans under $250 and $21.95 for larger loans (up to the State maximum of $500). Six States do not cap fees on payday loans or are silent on fees (Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas (no cap on credit access business fees) and Utah and Wisconsin (silent on fees)). Depending on State law, the fee may be referred to as a ``charge,'' ``rate,'' ``interest,'' or other similar term. R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 19-14.4-4(4); Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(6); Or. Rev. Stat. sec. 725A.064(1)-()-(2); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-519(4); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2229; Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-46-412(3); Tex. Fin. Code Ann. sec. 393.602(b); Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-23-401; Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14(10)(a).

    \32\ ``CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper,'' at 15-17.

    \33\ Throughout part II, APR refers to the annual percentage rate calculated as required by the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq. and Regulation Z, 12 CFR part 1026, except where otherwise specified.

    \34\ ``CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper,'' at 16, 19 (33 percent of payday loans borrowers receive income monthly; 18 percent of payday loan borrowers are public benefits recipients, largely from Social Security including Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability, typically paid on a monthly basis).

    \35\ For example, Washington requires the due date to be on or after the borrower's next pay date but if the pay date is within seven days of taking out the loan, the due date must be on the second pay date after the loan is made. Wash. Rev. Code sec. 31.45.073(2). A number of States set minimum loan terms, some of which are tied directly to the consumer's next payday.

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    On the loan's due date, the terms of the loan obligate the borrower to repay the loan in full. Although the States that created exceptions to their usury limits for payday lending generally did so on the theory these were short-term loans to which the usual usury rules did not easily apply, in 18 of the States that authorize payday lending the lender is permitted to roll over the loan when it comes due. A rollover occurs when, instead of repaying the loan in full at maturity, the consumer pays only the fees due and the lender agrees to extend the due date.\36\ By rolling over, the loan repayment of the principal is extended for another period of time, usually equivalent to the original loan term, in return for the consumer's agreement to pay a new set of fees calculated in the same manner as the initial fees (e.g., 15 percent of the loan principal). The rollover fee is not applied to reduce the loan principal or amortize the loan. As an example, if the consumer borrows $300 with a fee of $45 (calculated as $15 per $100 borrowed), the consumer will owe $345 on the due date, typically 14 days later. On the due date, if the consumer cannot afford to repay the entire $345 due or is otherwise offered the option to roll over the loan, she will pay the lender $45 for another 14 days. On the 28th day, the consumer will owe the original $345 and if she pays the loan in full then, will have paid a total of $90 for the loan.

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    \36\ This rulemaking uses the term ``rollover'' but this practice is sometimes described under State law or by lenders as a ``renewal'' or an ``extension.''

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    In some States in which rollovers are permitted they are subject to certain limitations such as a cap on the number of rollovers or requirements that the borrower amortize--repay part of the original loan amount--on the rollover. Other States have no restrictions on rollovers. Specially, 17 of the States that authorize single-payment payday lending prohibit lenders from rolling over loans and 11 more States impose some rollover limitations.\37\ However, in most States where rollovers are prohibited or limited, there is no restriction on the lender immediately making a new loan to the consumer (with new fees) after the consumer has repaid the prior loan. New loans made the same day, or ``back-to-back'' loans, effectively replicate a rollover because the borrower remains in debt to the lender on the borrower's next payday.\38\ Ten States have implemented a cooling-off period before a lender may make a new loan. The most common cooling-off period is one day, although some States have longer periods following a specified number of rollovers or back-to-back loans.\39\

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    \37\ States that prohibit rollovers include California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Cal. Fin. Code sec. 23037(a); Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(18); Haw. Rev. Stat. sec. 480F-

    4(d); 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 122/2-30; Ind. Code sec. 24-4.5-7-402(7); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 286.9-100(14); Mich. Comp. Laws sec. 487.2155(1); Minn. Stat. sec. 47.60(2)(f); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-

    67-519(5); Neb. Rev. Stat. sec. 45-919(1)(f); N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-15-34(A) (to be repealed January 1, 2018 as noted above); Okla. Stat. tit. 59, sec. 3109(A); S.C. Code Ann. sec. 34-39-180(F); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-17-112(q); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-1816(6); Wash. Rev. Code sec. 31.45.073(2); Wyo. Stat. Ann. sec. 40-14-364. Other States such as Iowa and Kansas restrict a loan from being repaid with the proceeds of another loan. Iowa Code sec. 533D.10(1)(e); Kan. Stat. Ann. sec. 16a-2-404(6). Other States that permit some degree of rollovers include: Alabama (one); Alaska (two); Delaware (four); Idaho (three); Missouri (six if there is at least 5 percent principal reduction on each rollover); Nevada (may extend loan up to 60 days after the end of the initial loan term); North Dakota (one); Oregon (two); Rhode Island (one); Utah (allowed up to 10 weeks after the execution of the first loan); and Wisconsin (one). Ala. Code sec. 5-18A-12(b); Alaska Stat. sec. 06.50.470(b); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2235A(a)(2); Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-46-413(9); Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 408.500(6); Nev. Rev. Stat. sec. 604A.480(1); N.D. Cent. Code sec. 13-08-12(12); Or. Rev. Stat. sec. 725A.064(6); R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 19-14.4-5.1(g); Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-23-401(4)(b); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14 (12)(a).

    \38\ See CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 94; Julie A. Meade, Adm'r of the Colo. Unif. Consumer Credit Code Unit, Colo. Dep't of Law, ``Payday Lending Demographic and Statistical Information: July 2000 through December 2012,'' at 24 (Apr. 10, 2014), available at http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/contentuploads/cp/ConsumerCreditUnit/UCCC/AnnualReportComposites/DemoStatsInfo/ddlasummary2000-2012.pdf; Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 15 (Report 1, 2012), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/

    uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf; Leslie Parrish & Uriah King, ``Phantom Demand: Short-term Due Date Generates Need for Repeat Payday Loans, Accounting for 76% of Total Volume,'' at 7 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending 2009), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/phantom-demand-final.pdf.

    \39\ States with cooling-off periods include: Alabama (next business day after a rollover is paid in full); Florida (24 hours); Illinois (seven days after a consumer has had payday loans for more than 45 days); Indiana (seven days after five consecutive loans); New Mexico (10 days after completing an extended payment plan) (to be repealed Jan. 1, 2018 as noted above); North Dakota (three business days); Ohio (one day with a two loan limit in 90 days, four per year); Oklahoma (two business days after fifth consecutive loan); Oregon (seven days); South Carolina (one business day between all loans and two business days after seventh loan in a calendar year); Virginia (one day between all loans, 45 days after fifth loan in a 180-day period, and 90 days after completion of an extended payment plan or extended term loan); and Wisconsin (24 hour after renewals). Ala. Code sec. 5-18A-12(b); Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(19); 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 122/2-5(b); Ind. Code sec. 24-4.5-7-401(2); N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-15-36; N.D. Cent. Code sec. 13-08-12(4); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. sec. 1321.41(E), (N), (R); Okla. Stat. tit. 59, sec. 3110; Or. Rev. Stat. sec. 725A.064(7); S.C. Code Ann. sec. 34-

    39-270(A), (B); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-1816(6); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14(12)(a).

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    At least 17 States have adopted laws that require payday lenders to offer borrowers the option of taking an extended repayment plan when they encounter difficulty in repaying payday loans.\40\ Details about the extended repayment plans vary including: Borrower eligibility (in some States only prior to the lender instituting collections or litigation); how borrowers may elect to participate in repayment plans; the number and timing of payments; the length of plans; permitted fees for plans; requirements for credit counseling; requirements to report plan payments to a statewide database; cooling-off or ``lock-out'' periods for new loans after completion of plans; and the consequences of plan defaults.

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    Two States more generally allow lenders the discretion to offer borrowers an extension of time to repay or enter into workout agreements with borrowers having repayment difficulties.\41\ The effects of these various restrictions are discussed further below in Market Concerns--Underwriting.

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    \40\ States with statutory extended repayment plans include: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan (fee permitted), Nevada, New Mexico (to be repealed Jan. 1, 2018 as noted above), Oklahoma (fee permitted), South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Florida also requires that as a condition of providing a repayment plan (called a grace period), borrowers make an appointment with a consumer credit counseling agency and complete counseling by the end of the plan. Ala. Code sec. 5-18A-12(c); Alaska Stat. sec. 06.50.550(a); Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(22)(a); Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-46-414; 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 122/2-40; Ind. Code sec. 24-4.5-7-401(3); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 9:3578.4.1; Mich. Comp. Laws sec. 487.2155(2); Nev. Rev. Stat. sec. 604A.475(1); N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-15-35; Okla. Stat. tit. 59, sec. 3109(D); S.C. Code Ann. sec. 34-39-280; Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-23-403; Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-1816(26); Wash. Rev. Code sec. 31.45.084(1); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14(11)(g); Wyo. Stat. Ann. sec. 40-14-366(a).

    \41\ California (no fees permitted) and Delaware are States that permit payday lenders to extend the time for repayment of payday loans. Cal. Fin. Code sec. 23036(b); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2235A(a)(2).

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    Industry size and structure. There are various estimates as to the number of consumers who use payday loans on an annual basis. One survey found that 2.5 million households (2 percent of U.S. households) used payday loans in 2015.\42\ In another survey, 3.4 percent of households reported taking out a payday loan in the past year.\43\ These surveys referred to payday loans generally, and did not specify whether they were referring to loans made online or at storefront locations. One report estimated the number of individual borrowers, rather than households, was higher at approximately 12 million annually and included both storefront and online loans.\44\ See Market Concerns--

    Underwriting for additional information on borrower characteristics.

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    \42\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,'' at 2, 34 (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf.

    \43\ Jesse Bricker, et al., ``Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2013 to 2016: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances,'' at 27 (Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., 103 Fed. Reserve Bulletin No. 3, 2017), available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/scf17.pdf.

    \44\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 4 (Report 3, 2013), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/

    pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf.

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    There are several ways to gauge the size of the storefront payday loan industry. Typically, the industry has been measured by counting the total dollar value of each loan made during the course of a year, counting each rollover, back-to-back loan or other re-borrowing as a new loan that is added to the total. By this metric, one industry analyst estimated that from 2009 to 2014, storefront payday lending generated approximately $30 billion in new loans per year and that by 2015 the volume had declined to $23.6 billion,\45\ although these numbers may include products other than single-payment loans. The analyst's estimate for combined storefront and online payday loan volume was $45.3 billion in 2014 and $39.5 billion in 2015, down from a peak of about $50 billion in 2007.\46\

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    \45\ John Hecht, ``The State of Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity, Evolution and Innovation'' (2016) (Jefferies LLC, slide presentation) (on file); John Hecht, ``The State of Short-Term Credit in a Constantly Changing Environment'' at 4 (2015) (Jeffries LLC, slide presentation) (on file).

    \46\ Hecht, ``Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity.''

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    Alternatively, the industry can be measured by calculating the dollar amount of loan balances outstanding. Given the amount of payday loan re-borrowing, which results in the same funds of the lender being used to finance multiple loan originations to the same borrower, the dollar amount of loan balances outstanding may provide a more nuanced sense of the industry's scale. Using this metric, the Bureau estimates that in 2012, storefront payday lenders held approximately $2 billion in outstanding single-payment loans.\47\ In 2015, industry revenue (fees paid on storefront payday loans) was an estimated $3.6 billion, representing 15 percent of loan originations. Combined storefront and online payday revenue was estimated at $8.7 billion in 2014 and $6.7 billion in 2015, down from a peak of over $9 billion in 2012.\48\

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    \47\ The Bureau's staff estimate is based on public company financial information, confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, and industry analysts' reports. The estimate is derived from lenders' single-payment payday loans gross receivables and gross revenue and industry analysts' reports on loan volume and revenue. No calculations were done for 2013 to 2016, but that estimate would be less than $2 billion due to changes in the market as the industry has shifted away from single-payment payday loans to products discussed below.

    \48\ Hecht, ``Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity.''

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    In the last several years, it has become increasingly difficult to identify the largest payday lenders due to firm mergers, diversification by many lenders into a range of products including installment loans and retraction by others into pawn loans, and the lack of available data because most firms are privately held. However, there are at least 10 lenders with approximately 200 or more storefront locations.\49\ Only a few of these firms are publicly traded companies.\50\ Most large payday lenders are privately held,\51\ and the remaining payday loan stores are owned by smaller regional or local entities. The Bureau estimates there are about 2,400 storefront payday lenders that are small entities as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA).\52\ Several industry commenters, an industry trade association commenter, and a number of payday

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    lenders noted that they offer non-credit products and services at their locations including check cashing, money transmission and bill payments, sale of prepaid cards, and other services, some of which require them to comply with other laws as ``money service businesses.''

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    \49\ These firms include: ACE Cash Express, Advance America, Amscot Financial, Axcess Financial (CNG Financial, Check `n Go, Allied Cash), Check Into Cash, Community Choice Financial (Checksmart), CURO Financial Technologies (Speedy Cash/Rapid Cash), DFC Global Corp (Money Mart), FirstCash, and QC Holdings. See Ace Cash Express, ``Store Locator,'' available at https://www.acecashexpress.com/locations; Advance America, ``Find an Advance America Store Location,'' available at https://www.advanceamerica.net/locations/find; Amscot Financial, Inc., ``Amscot Locations,'' available at https://www.amscot.com/locations.aspx; Check `n Go, ``State Center,'' available at https://www.checkngo.com/resources/state-center; Allied Cash Advance, ``Allied Cash Advance Store Directory,'' available at https://locations.alliedcash.com/index.html; Check Into Cash, ``Payday Loan Information By State,'' available at https://checkintocash.com/payday-loan-information-by-state; Community Choice Financial (CheckSmart), ``Locations,'' available at https://www.ccfi.com/locations/; SpeedyCash, ``Speedy Cash Stores Near Me,'' available at https://www.speedycash.com/find-a-store; DFC Global Corp., ``Home,'' available at http://www.dfcglobalcorp.com/index.html; FirstCash Inc., ``Find a Location Near You,'' available at http://www.firstcash.com/; QC Holdings, Inc., ``Branch Locator,'' available at https://www.qcholdings.com/branchlocator.aspx (all sites last visited Jul. 26, 2017).

    \50\ The publicly traded firms are Community Choice Financial Inc./Cash Central/Checksmart (CCFI), EZCORP, Inc. (EZPW), FirstCash Inc. (FCFS), and QC Holdings (QCCO). As noted above, in September 2016, FirstCash Financial Services merged with Cash America, resulting in the company FirstCash Inc. Prior to the merger, in November 2014, Cash America migrated its online loans to a spin-off company, Enova. Cash America International, Inc., 2015 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 3 (Dec. 14, 2016). Both FCFS and Cash America had been deemphasizing payday lending in the U.S., and shifting towards pawn. In 2016, the new company, FirstCash, had only 45 stand-alone consumer loan locations, in Texas, Ohio, and California, and 326 pawn locations that also offered consumer loans, compared to 1,085 pawn locations. Only 4 percent of its revenue was from non-pawn consumer loans and credit services operations. (Credit services organizations are described below.) FirstCash Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 5, 7. In 2015, EZCORP exited payday, installment, and auto title lending, focusing domestically on pawn lending. EZCORP, Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 3 (Dec. 14, 2016). QC Holdings delisted from Nasdaq in February 2016 and is traded over-the-counter. QC Holdings, Inc., Suspension of Duty to File Reports Under Sections 13 and 15(d) (Form 15).

    \51\ The larger privately held payday lending firms include Advance America, ACE Cash Express, Axcess Financial (CNG Financial, Check `n Go, Allied Cash), Check Into Cash, DFC Global (Money Mart), PLS Financial Services, and Speedy Cash Holdings Corporation. See Susanna Montezemolo, ``Payday Lending Abuses and Predatory Practices: The State of Lending in America & Its Impact on U.S. Households'' at 9-10 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2013); John Hecht, ``Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework'' (2014) (Stephens, Inc., slide presentation) (on file).

    \52\ Bureau staff estimated the number of storefront payday lenders using licensee information from State financial regulators, firm revenue information from public filings and non-public sources, and, for a small number of States, industry market research relying on telephone directory listings from Steven Graves and Christopher Peterson, available at http://www.csun.edu/~sg4002/research/data/

    US_pdl_addr.xls. Based on these sources, there are approximately 2,503 storefront payday lenders, including those operating primarily as loan arrangers or brokers, in the United States. Based on the publicly-available revenue information, at least 56 of the firms have revenue above the small entity threshold. Most of the remaining firms operate a very small number of storefronts. Therefore, while some of the firms without publicly available information may have revenue above the small entity threshold, in the interest of being inclusive they are all assumed to be small entities.

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    According to one industry analyst, there were an estimated 16,480 payday loan stores in 2015 in the United States, a decline from 19,000 stores in 2011 and down from the industry's 2007 peak of 24,043 storefronts.\53\

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    \53\ Hecht, ``Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity,'' at 7. Although there is no estimate for 2016, the number of storefronts offering payday loans is likely smaller due to the regulatory changes in South Dakota, the exit of EZCORP from payday lending, and the merger of First Cash Financial and Cash America, and its shift away from payday lending. However, it is difficult to precisely measure the number of stores that have shifted from payday to pawn lending, rather than closing. By way of comparison, in 2015 there were 14,259 McDonald's fast food outlets in the United States. McDonald's Corp., 2015 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 23 (Feb. 25, 2016).

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    The average number of payday loan stores in a county with a payday loan store is 6.32.\54\ The Bureau has analyzed payday loan store locations in States which maintain lists of licensed lenders and found that half of all stores are less than one-third of a mile from another store, and three-quarters are less than a mile from the nearest store.\55\ Even the 95th percentile of distances between neighboring stores is only 4.3 miles. Stores tend to be closer together in counties within metropolitan statistical areas (MSA).\56\ In non-MSA counties the 75th percentile of distance to the nearest store is still less than one mile, but the 95th percentile is 22.9 miles.

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    \54\ James R. Barth, et al., ``Do State Regulations Affect Payday Lender Concentration?,'' at 12 (2015), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2581622.

    \55\ CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 90.

    \56\ An MSA is a geographic entity delineated by the Office of Management and Budget. An MSA contains a core urban area of 50,000 or more in population. See U.S. Census Bureau, ``Metropolitan and Micropolitan,'' available at http://www.census.gov/population/metro/ (last visited Apr. 7, 2016).

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    Research and the Bureau's own market outreach indicate that payday loan stores tend to be relatively small with, on average, three full-

    time equivalent employees.\57\ An analysis of loan data from 29 States found that the average store made 3,541 advances in a year.\58\ Given rollover and re-borrowing rates, a report estimated that the average store served fewer than 500 customers per year.\59\

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    \57\ Mark Flannery & Katherine Samolyk, ``Payday Lending: Do the Costs Justify the Price?,'' (FDIC Ctr. for Fin. Res., Working Paper No. 2005-09, 2005), available at https://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/cfr/2005/wp2005/cfrwp_2005-09_flannery_samolyk.pdf.

    \58\ Susanna Montezemolo, ``Payday Lending Abuses and Predatory Practices: The State of Lending in America & Its Impact on U.S. Households'' at 26 n.2 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2013), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/state-of-lending/reports/10-Payday-Loans.pdf.

    \59\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Policy Solutions,'' at 18 (Report 3, 2013), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2013/

    pewpaydaypolicysolutionsoct2013pdf.pdf.

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    Marketing, underwriting, and collections practices. Payday loans tend to be marketed as a short-term bridge to cover emergency expenses. For example, one lender suggests that, for consumers who have insufficient funds on hand to meet such an expense or to avoid a penalty fee, late fee, or utility shut-off, a payday loan can ``come in handy'' and ``help tide you over until your next payday.'' \60\ Some lenders offer new borrowers their initial loans at no fee (``first loan free'') to encourage consumers to try a payday loan.\61\ Stores are typically located in high-traffic commuting corridors and near shopping areas where consumers obtain groceries and other staples.\62\

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    \60\ Cash America Int'l Inc., ``Cash Advance/Short-term Loans,'' available at http://www.cashamerica.com/LoanOptions/CashAdvances.aspx (last visited Apr. 7, 2016).

    \61\ See, e.g., Instant Cash Advance Corp., ``Instant PayDay,'' available at http://www.instantcashadvancecorp.com/free-loan-offer-VAL312.php (introductory offer of a free (no fee) cash advance of $200) (storefront payday loans); Check N Title Loans, ``First Loan Free,'' available at http://www.checkntitle.com/ (storefront payday and title loans); AmeriTrust Financial LLC, ``1st Advance Free,'' available at http://www.americantrustcash.com/payday-loans (storefront payday, title, and installment loans, first loan free on payday loans) (all firm Web sites last visited on Dec. 21, 2015).

    \62\ See FirstCash, Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 9; QC Holdings, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 11; Community Choice Fin. Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 6.

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    The evidence of price competition among payday lenders is mixed. In their financial reports, publicly traded payday lenders have reported their key competitive factors to be non-price related. For instance, they cite location, customer service, and convenience as some of the primary factors on which payday lenders compete with one another, as well as with other financial service providers.\63\ Academic studies have found that, in States with rate caps, loans are almost always made at the maximum rate permitted.\64\ Another study likewise found that in States with rate caps, firms lent at the maximum permitted rate, and that lenders operating in multiple States with varying rate caps raise their fees to those caps rather than charging consistent fees company-

    wide. The study found, however, that in States with no rate caps, different lenders operating in those States charged different rates. The study reviewed four lenders that operate in Texas \65\ and observed differences in the cost to borrow $300 per two-week pay period: two lenders charged $61 in fees, one charged $67, and another charged $91, indicating some level of price variation between lenders (ranging from about $20 to $32 per $100 borrowed).\66\ One industry commenter cited the difference in average loan pricing between storefront (generally lower) and online loans (generally higher), as evidence of price competition but that is more likely due to the fact that state-licensed lenders are generally constrained in the amount they can charge rather than competitive strategies adopted by those lenders. That commenter also notes as evidence of price competition that it sometimes discounts its own loans from its advertised prices; the comment did not address whether such discounts were offered to meet competition.

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    \63\ See QC Holdings, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 12-13.

    \64\ Robert DeYoung & Ronnie Phillips, ``Payday Loan Pricing,'' at 27-28, (Fed. Reserve Bank of Kan. City, Working Paper No. RWP 09-

    07, 2009), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1066761 (studying rates on loans in Colorado between 2000 and 2006); Mark Flannery & Katherine Samolyk, ``Payday Lending: Do the Costs Justify the Price?,'' at 9-10 (FDIC Ctr. for Fin. Res., Working Paper No. 2005-09, 2005), available at https://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/cfr/2005/wp2005/cfrwp_2005-09_flannery_samolyk.pdf.

    \65\ In Texas, these lenders operate as credit services organizations or loan arrangers with no fee caps, described in more detail below. Pew Charitable Trusts, ``How State Rate Limits Affect Payday Loan Prices,'' (Apr. 2014), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs/content-

    level_pages/fact_sheets/stateratelimitsfactsheetpdf.pdf.

    \66\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``How State Rate Limits Affect Payday Loan Prices,'' (Apr. 2014), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs/content-

    level_pages/fact_sheets/stateratelimitsfactsheetpdf.pdf.

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    The application process for a payday loan is relatively simple. For a storefront payday loan, a borrower must generally provide some verification of income (typically a pay stub) and evidence of a personal deposit account.\67\ Although a few States impose limited requirements that lenders consider a borrower's ability to repay,\68\ storefront payday

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    lenders generally do not consider a borrower's other financial obligations or require collateral (other than the check or electronic debit authorization) for the loan. Most storefront payday lenders do not consider traditional credit reports or credit scores when determining loan eligibility, nor do they report any information about payday loan borrowing history to the nationwide consumer reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.\69\ From market outreach activities and confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, the Bureau is aware that a number of storefront payday lenders obtain data from one or more specialty consumer reporting agencies during the loan application process to check for previous payday loan defaults, identify recent inquiries that suggest an intention to not repay the loan, and perform other due diligence such as identity and deposit account verification. Some storefront payday lenders use analytical models and scoring that attempt to predict likelihood of default.\70\ Through market outreach and confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, the Bureau is aware that many storefront payday lenders only conduct their limited underwriting for first-time borrowers or those returning after an absence.

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    \67\ See, e.g., Check Into Cash, ``Frequently Asked Questions and Policies of Check into Cash,'' available at https://checkintocash.com/faqs/in-store-cash-advance/ (last visited Sept. 14, 2017) (process as described by one lender).

    \68\ For example, Utah requires lenders to make an inquiry to determine that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, which may include rollovers or extended payment plans. This determination may be made through borrower affirmation of ability to repay, proof of income, repayment history at the same lender, or information from a consumer reporting agency. Utah Code sec. 7-23-401. Missouri requires lenders to consider borrower financial ability to reasonably repay under the terms of the loan contract, but does not specify how lenders may satisfy this requirement. Mo. Rev. Stat sec. 408.500(7). Effective July 1, 2017, Nevada lenders must assess borrowers' reasonable ability to repay by considering, to the extent available, their current or expected income; current employment status based on a pay stub, bank deposit, or other evidence; credit history; original loan amount due, or for installment loans or potential repayment plans, the monthly payment amount; and other evidence relevant to ability to repay including bank statements and borrowers' written representations. Other States prohibit loans that exceed a certain percentage of the borrower's gross monthly income (generally between 20 and 35 percent) as a proxy for ability to repay as described above.

    \69\ See, e.g., Neil Bhutta, et al., ``Payday Loan Choices and Consequences,'' 47 J. of Money, Credit and Banking 223 (2015).

    \70\ See, e.g., Advance America, ``FAQs on Payday Loans/Cash Advances: Is my credit score checked before receiving an in-store Payday Loan?,'' available at https://www.advanceamerica.net/questions/payday-loans-cash-advances (last visited May 10, 2017) (the custom scoring model described by one lender).

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    From market outreach, the Bureau is aware that the specialty consumer reporting agencies contractually require any lender that obtains data to also report data to them, although compliance may vary. Reporting usually occurs on a real-time or same-day basis. Separately, 14 States require lenders to check statewide databases before making each loan in order to ensure that their loans comply with various State restrictions.\71\ These States likewise require lenders to report certain lending activity to the database, generally on a real-time or same-day basis. As discussed in more detail above, these State restrictions may include prohibitions on consumers having more than one payday loan at a time, cooling-off periods, or restrictions on the number of loans consumers may take out per year.

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    \71\ The States with databases are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Illinois Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico (to be repealed Jan. 1, 2018 as noted above), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Illinois also requires use of its database for payday installment loans, vehicle title loans, and some installment loans. Some State laws allow lenders to charge borrowers a fee to access the database that may be set by statute. Ala. Code sec. 5-18A-13(o); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2235B; Fla. Stat. sec. 560.404(23); 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 122/2-

    15; Ind. Code sec. 24-4.5-7-404(4); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 286.9-

    100(19)(b); Mich. Comp. Laws sec. 487.2142; N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-

    15-37(B); N.D. Cent. Code sec. 13-08-12(4); Okla. Stat. tit. 59, sec. 3109(B)(2)(b); S.C. Code Ann. sec. 34-39-175; Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-1810; Wash. Rev. Code sec. 31.45.093; Wis. Stat. sec. 138.14(14).

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    Although a consumer is generally required when obtaining a loan to provide a post-dated check or authorization for an electronic debit of the consumer's account which could be presented to the consumer's bank,\72\ consumers in practice generally return to the store when the loan is due to ``redeem'' the check either by repaying the loan or by paying the finance charges and rolling over the loan.\73\ For example, a major payday lender with a predominantly storefront loan portfolio reported that in 2014, over 90 percent of its payday loan volume was repaid in cash at its branches by consumers either paying in full or by paying the ``original loan fee'' (finance charges) and rolling over the loan (signing a new promissory note and leaving a new check or payment authorization).\74\

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    \72\ Payments may also be taken from the consumer's debit card. See, e.g., All American Check Cashing, Inc., Miss. Dep't of Banking and Consumer Fin., Administrative Order, Cause No. 2016-001, May 11, 2017, available at http://www.dbcf.ms.gov/documents/actions/consumerfin/aa0517.pdf.

    \73\ According to the Bureau's market outreach, if borrowers provided ACH authorization and return to pay the loan in cash, the authorization may be returned to them or voided.

    \74\ QC Holdings, 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 7.

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    An industry commenter stated that repayment in cash reflects customers' preferences. However, borrowers are strongly encouraged and in some cases required by lenders to return to the store when payment is due. Some lenders give borrowers appointment cards with a date and time to encourage them to return with cash. For example, one major storefront payday lender explained that after loan origination ``the customer then makes an appointment to return on a specified due date, typically his or her next payday, to repay the cash advance . . . . Payment is usually made in person, in cash at the center where the cash advance was initiated . . . .'' \75\

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    \75\ Advance America, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K) at 45 (Mar. 15, 2012). See also Check Into Cash, ``Cash Advance Loan FAQs, What is a cash advance?,'' available at https://checkintocash.com/faqs/in-store-cash-advance/ (last visited Feb. 4, 2016) (``We hold your check until your next payday, at which time you can come in and pay back the advance.'').

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    The Bureau is aware, from confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions and from market outreach, that lenders routinely make reminder calls to borrowers a few days before loan due dates to encourage borrowers to return to the store. One large lender reported this practice in a public filing.\76\ Another storefront payday lender requires its borrowers to return to the store to repay. Its Web site states: ``All payday loans must be repaid with either cash or money order. Upon payment, we will return your original check to you.'' \77\

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    \76\ When Advance America was a publicly traded corporation, it reported: ``The day before the due date, we generally call the customer to confirm their payment due date.'' Advance America, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 11.

    \77\ Instant Cash Advance, ``How Cash Advances Work,'' available at http://www.instantcashadvancecorp.com/services/payday-loans/ (last visited July 17, 2017).

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    The Bureau is also aware, from confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, that one or more storefront payday lenders have operating policies that specifically state that cash is preferred because only half of their customers' checks would clear if deposited on the loan due dates. Encouraging or requiring borrowers to return to the store on the due date provides lenders an opportunity to offer borrowers the option to roll over the loan or, where rollovers are prohibited by State law, to re-borrow following repayment or after the expiration of any cooling-off period. Most storefront lenders examined by the Bureau employ monetary incentives that reward employees and store managers for loan volumes, although one industry commenter described the industry's incentives to employees as rewards for increases in net revenue. Since as discussed below, a majority of loans result from rollovers of existing loans or re-borrowing contemporaneously with or shortly after loans have been repaid, rollovers and re-borrowing contribute substantially to employees'

    Page 54482

    compensation. From confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, the Bureau is aware that rollover and re-borrowing offers are made when consumers log into their accounts online, during ``courtesy calls'' made to remind borrowers of upcoming due dates, and when borrowers repay in person at storefront locations. In addition, some lenders train their employees to offer rollovers during courtesy calls when borrowers notified lenders that they had lost their jobs or suffered pay reductions.

    Store personnel often encourage borrowers to roll over their loans or to re-borrow, even when consumers have demonstrated an inability to repay their existing loans. In an enforcement action, the Bureau found that one lender maintained training materials that actively directed employees to encourage re-borrowing by struggling borrowers. It further found that if a borrower did not repay or pay to roll over the loan on time, store personnel would initiate collections. Store personnel or collectors would then offer the option to take out a new loan to pay off an existing loan, or refinance or extend the loan as a source of relief from the potentially negative outcomes (e.g., lawsuits, continued collections). This ``cycle of debt'' was depicted graphically as part of ``The Loan Process'' in the company's new hire training manual.\78\ In Mississippi, another lender employed a companywide practice in which store personnel encouraged borrowers with monthly income or benefits payments to use the proceeds of one loan to pay off another loan, although State law prohibited these renewals or rollovers.\79\

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    \78\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against ACE Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt,'' (July 10, 2014), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-ace-cash-express-for-pushing-payday-borrowers-into-cycle-of-debt/.

    \79\ All American Check Cashing, Inc., Miss. Dep't of Banking and Consumer Fin., Administrative Order, Cause No. 2016-001, May 11, 2017, available at http://www.dbcf.ms.gov/documents/actions/consumerfin/aa0517.pdf. The lender also failed to refund consumer overpayments. The State regulator ordered revocation of all of the lender's 75 licenses, consumer refunds, civil penalties of over $1 million, and other relief. All American appealed the order and the matter was settled with terms reducing the penalty to $889,350. Agreed Order of Dismissal with Prejudice, All American Check Cashing Inc. v. Miss. Dep't of Banking and Consumer Fin., No. G-2017-699 S/2 (Miss. 2017), available at http://www.dbcf.ms.gov/documents/aacc_agreed_060917.pdf.

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    In addition, though some States require lenders to offer borrowers the option of extended repayment plans and some trade associations have designated provision of such plans as a best practice, individual lenders may often be reluctant to offer them. In Colorado, for instance, some payday lenders reported, prior to a regulatory change in 2010, that they had implemented practices to restrict borrowers from obtaining the number of loans needed to be eligible for the State-

    mandated extended payment plan option and that some lenders had banned borrowers who had exercised their rights to elect payment plans from taking new loans.\80\ The Bureau is also aware, from confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions, that one or more lenders used training manuals that instructed employees not to mention these plans until after employees first offered rollovers, and then only if borrowers specifically asked about the plans. Indeed, details on implementation of the repayment plans that have been designated by two national trade associations for storefront payday lenders as best practices are unclear, and in some cases place a number of limitations on exactly how and when a borrower must request assistance to qualify for these ``off-ramps.'' For instance, one trade association representing more than half of all payday loan stores states that as a condition of membership, members must offer an ``extended payment plan'' but that borrowers must request the plan at least one day prior to the date on which the loan is due, generally in person at the store where the loan was made or otherwise by the same method used to originate the loan.\81\ Another trade association with over 1,300 members, including both payday lenders and firms that offer non-credit products such as check cashing and money transmission, states that members will provide the option of extended payment plans in the absence of State-mandated plans to customers unable to repay, but details of the plans are not publicly available on its Web site.\82\

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    \80\ See State of Colo. Dep't of Law, Off. of Att'y Gen., ``2009 Deferred Deposit/Payday Lenders Annual Report,'' at 2, available at http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/contentuploads/cp/ConsumerCreditUnit/UCCC/AnnualReportComposites/2009_ddl_composite.pdf. See also Market Concerns--Covered Loans below for additional discussion of lenders' extended payment plan practices.

    \81\ Community Fin. Servs. Ass'n of America, ``About CFSA,'' available at http://cfsaa.com/about-cfsa.aspx (last visited Jan. 15, 2016); Community Fin. Servs. Ass'n of America, ``CFSA Member Best Practices,'' available at http://cfsaa.com/cfsa-member-best-practices.aspx (last visited Sept. 15, 2017); Community Fin. Servs. Ass'n of America, ``What Is an Extended Payment Plan?,'' available at http://cfsaa.com/cfsa-member-best-practices/what-is-an-extended-payment-plan.aspx (last visited Jan. 15, 2016). Association documents direct lenders to display a ``counter card'' describing the association's best practices. Plans are to be offered in the absence of State-mandated plans at no charge and payable in four equal payments coinciding with paydays.

    \82\ Fin. Serv. Ctrs. of America, ``Membership,'' http://www.fisca.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Membership (last visited Sept. 15, 2017); Joseph M. Doyle, ``Chairman's Message,'' Fin. Serv. Ctrs. of America, http://www.fisca.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Chairman_s_Message&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=19222 (last visited Jan. 15, 2016); Fin. Serv. Ctrs. of America, ``FiSCA Best Practices,'' http://www.fisca.org/Content/NavigationMenu/AboutFISCA/CodesofConduct/default.htm (last visited Jan. 15, 2016).

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    From confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions and market outreach, the Bureau is aware that if a borrower fails to return to the store when a loan is due, the lender may attempt to contact the consumer and urge the consumer to make a cash payment before eventually depositing the post-dated check that the consumer had provided at origination or electronically debiting the account. The Bureau is also aware of some situations in which lenders have obtained electronic payments from borrowers' bank accounts and also accepted cash payments from borrowers at storefronts.\83\ The Bureau is aware, from confidential information gathered in the course of its statutory functions and from market outreach, that lenders may use various methods to try to ensure that a payment will clear before presenting a check or ACH. These efforts may range from storefront lenders calling the borrower's bank to ask if a check of a particular size would clear the account to the use of software offered by a number of vendors that attempts to model likelihood of repayment (``predictive ACH'').\84\ If

    Page 54483

    these attempts are unsuccessful, store personnel at either the storefront level or at a centralized location will then generally engage in collection activity.

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    \83\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 31-32 (Summer 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201709_cfpb_Supervisory-Highlights_Issue-16.pdf. See also, Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Check Cashing and Payday Lending Company for Tricking and Trapping Consumers,'' (May 11, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-check-cashing-and-payday-lending-company-tricking-and-trapping-consumers/; All American Check Cashing, Inc., Miss. Dept. of Banking and Consumer Fin., Administrative Order, No. 2016-001 (May 11, 2017), available at http://www.dbcf.ms.gov/documents/actions/consumerfin/aa0517.pdf (for a description of one lender's alleged failure to refund overpayments resulting from these procedures and an associated State agency's order against that lender.).

    \84\ See, e.g., Press Release, Clarity Servs., ``ACH Presentment Will Help Lenders Reduce Failed ACH Pulls,'' (Aug. 1, 2013), available at https://www.clarityservices.com/clear-warning-ach-presentment-will-help-lenders-reduce-failed-ach-pulls/; Factor Trust, ``Markets,'' http://ws.factortrust.com/products/ (last visited Apr. 8, 2016); Microbilt, ``Bank Account Verify. More Predictive. Better Performance. Lower Costs.,'' http://www.microbilt.com/bank-account-verification.aspx (last visited Apr. 8, 2016); DataX. Ltd., ``Know Your Customer,'' http://www.dataxltd.com/ancillary-services/successful-collections/ (last visited Apr.8, 2016).

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    Collection activity may involve further in-house attempts to collect from the borrower's bank account.\85\ If the first attempt fails, the lender may make subsequent attempts at presentment by splitting payments into smaller amounts in hopes of increasing the likelihood of obtaining at least some funds, a practice for which the Bureau recently took enforcement action against a small-dollar lender.\86\ Or, the lender may attempt to present the payment multiple times, a practice that the Bureau has noted in supervisory examinations.\87\ A more detailed discussion of payments practices is provided in part D and Markets Concerns--Payments.

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    \85\ For example, one payday lender stated in its public documents that it ``subsequently collects a large percentage of these bad debts by redepositing the customers' checks, ACH collections or receiving subsequent cash repayments by the customers.'' FirstCash Fin. Servs., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 5 (Feb. 12, 2015). As noted above, FirstCash has now largely exited payday lending.

    \86\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Orders EZCORP to Pay $10 Million for Illegal Debt Collection Tactics,'' (Dec. 16, 2015), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-orders-ezcorp-to-pay-10-million-for-illegal-debt-collection-tactics/.

    \87\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 20 (Spring 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201405_cfpb_supervisory-highlights-spring-2014.pdf.

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    Eventually, the lender may attempt other means of collection. The Bureau is aware of in-house debt collections activities, by both storefront employees and employees at centralized collections divisions, including calls, letters, and visits to consumers and their workplaces,\88\ as well as the sale of debt to third-party collectors.\89\ The Bureau recently conducted a survey of consumer debt collection experiences; 11 percent of consumers contacted about a debt in collection reported the collection activity was related to payday loan debt.\90\ Further, the Bureau observed in its consumer complaint data that from November 2013 through December 2016, more than 31,000 debt collection complaints had ``payday loan'' as the underlying debt. In more than 11 percent of the complaints the Bureau handled about debt collection, consumers selected ``payday loans'' as the underlying debt.\91\

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    \88\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Compliance Bulletin 2015-07, In-Person Collection of Consumer Debt,'' (Dec. 16, 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_compliance-bulletin-in-person-collection-of-consumer-debt.pdf.

    \89\ For example, prior to discontinuing its payday lending operations, EZCorp indicated that it used a tiered structure of collections on defaulted loans (storefront employees, centralized collections, and then third-parties debt sales). EZCORP, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 9 (Nov. 26, 2014). Advance America utilized calls and letters to past-due consumers, as well as attempts to convert the consumer's check into a cashier's check, as methods of collection. Advance America, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-

    K), at 11. See ACE Cash Express, Inc., Consent Order, CFPB No. 2014-

    CFPB-0008 (July 10, 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_consent-order_ace-cash-express.pdf; EZCorp Inc., Consent Order, CFPB No. 2015-CFPB-0031 (Dec. 16, 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_ezcorp-inc-consent-order.pdf. See also, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., Market Snapshot: Online Debt Sales,'' at 5, 7 (Jan. 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/market-snapshot-online-debt-sales/ (describing a significant share of payday loan portfolios on Web sites with online debts for sale).

    \90\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Experiences with Debt Collection: Findings from the CFPB's Survey of Consumer Views on Debt,'' at 19 (Jan. 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/2251/201701_cfpb_Debt-Collection-Survey-Report.pdf.

    \91\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 18,'' at 12 (Dec. 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/monthly-complaint-report-vol-18/.

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    In addition, in 2016, the Bureau handled approximately 4,400 complaints in which consumers reported ``payday loan'' as the complaint product and about 26,600 complaints about credit cards.\92\ As noted above, there are about 12 million payday loan borrowers annually, and approximately 156 million consumers have one or more credit cards.\93\ Therefore, by way of comparison, for every 10,000 payday loan borrowers, the Bureau handled about 3.7 complaints, while for every 10,000 credit card holders, the Bureau handled about 1.7 complaints.

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    \92\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Response Annual Report, January 1-December 31, 2016,'' at 27, 33-35 (Mar. 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/3368/201703_cfpb_Consumer-Response-Annual-Report-2016.PDF.

    \93\ The Bureau's staff estimate is based on finding that 63 percent of American adults hold an open credit card and Census population estimates. Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``The Consumer Credit Card Market Report,'' at 36 (Dec. 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_report-the-consumer-credit-card-market.pdf; U.S. Census Bureau, ``Annual Estimates of Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016,'' (June 2017), available at https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/PEP/2016/PEPAGESEX. Other estimates of the number of credit card holders have been higher, meaning that 1.7 complaints per 10,000 credit card holders would be a high estimate. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 160 million credit card holders in 2012, and researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimated that 72.1 percent of U.S. consumers held at least one credit card in 2014. U.S. Census Bureau, ``Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012,'' at 740 tbl.1188 (Aug. 2011), available at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed.html; Claire Greene et al., ``The 2014 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice: Summary Results,'' at 18 (Fed. Reserve Bank of Boston, No. 16-3, 2016), available at https://www.bostonfed.org/-/media/Documents/researchdatareport/pdf/rdr1603.pdf. As noted above in the text, additional complaints related to both credit cards and payday loans are submitted as debt collection complaints with credit card or payday loan listed as the type of debt.

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    Some payday lenders sue borrowers who fail to repay their loans. A study of small claims court cases filed in Utah from 2005 to 2010 found that 38 percent of cases were attributable to payday loans.\94\ A recent news report found that the majority of non-traffic civil cases filed in 14 Utah justice courts are payday loan collection lawsuits, and in one justice court, the percentage was as high as 98.8 percent.\95\ In 2013, the Bureau entered into a Consent Order with a large national payday and installment lender based, in part, on the filing of flawed court documents in about 14,000 debt collection lawsuits.\96\ However, an industry trade association commenter states that many payday lenders do not file lawsuits on defaulted debt.

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    \94\ Coalition of Religious Communities, ``Payday Lenders and Small Claims Court Cases in Utah,'' at 2 (2005-2010), available at http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/PDL-UTAH-court-doc.pdf.

    \95\ Lee Davidson, ``Payday Lenders Sued 7,927 Utahns Last Year,'' The Salt Lake City Tribune, Aug. 2, 2016, http://www.sltrib.com/home/3325528-155/payday-lenders-sued-7927-utahns-last.

    \96\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes Action Against Payday Lender for Robo-Signing,'' (Nov. 20, 2013), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-takes-action-against-payday-lender-for-robo-signing/.

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    Business model. As previously noted, the storefront payday industry has built a distribution model that involves a large number of small retail outlets, each serving a relatively small number of consumers. That implies that the overhead cost on a per consumer basis is relatively high.

    Additionally, the loss rates on storefront payday loans--the percentage or amounts of loans that are charged off by the lender as uncollectible--are relatively high. Loss rates on payday loans often are reported on a per-loan basis but, given the frequency of rollovers and renewals, that metric understates the amount of principal lost to borrower defaults. For example, if a lender makes a $100 loan that is rolled over nine times, at which point the consumer defaults, the per-

    loan default rate would be 10 percent whereas the lender would have in fact lost 100

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    percent of the amount loaned. In this example, the lender would still have received substantial revenue, as the lender would have collected fees for each rollover prior to default. The Bureau estimates that during the 2011-2012 time frame, charge-offs (i.e., uncollectible loans defaulted on and never repaid) equaled nearly one-half of the average amount of outstanding loans during the year. In other words, for every $1.00 loaned, only $.50 in principal was eventually repaid.\97\ One academic study found loss rates to be even higher.\98\

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    \97\ The Bureau's staff estimate is based on public company financial statements and confidential information gathered in the course of the Bureau's statutory functions. Ratio of gross charged off loans to average balances, where gross charge-offs represent single-payment loan losses and average balance is the average of beginning and end of year single-payment loan receivables.

    \98\ Mark Flannery & Katherine Samolyk, ``Payday Lending: Do the Costs Justify the Price?,'' at 16 (FDIC Ctr. for Fin. Res., Working Paper No. 2005-09, 2005), available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=771624 (estimating annual charge-offs on storefront payday loans at 66.6 percent of outstanding loans).

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    To sustain these significant costs, the payday lending business model is dependent upon a large volume of re-borrowing--that is, rollovers, back-to-back loans, and re-borrowing within a short period of paying off a previous loan--by those borrowers who do not default on their first loan. The Bureau's research found that over the course of a year, 90 percent of all loan fees comes from consumers who borrowed seven or more times and 75 percent comes from consumers who borrowed 10 or more times.\99\ Similarly, when the Bureau identified a cohort of borrowers and tracked them over 10 months, the Bureau found that more than two-thirds of all loans were in sequences of at least seven loans, and that over half of all loans were in sequences of 10 or more loans.\100\ The Bureau defines a sequence as an initial loan plus one or more subsequent loans renewed within 30 days after repayment of the prior loan; a sequence thus captures not only rollovers and back-to-

    back loans but also re-borrowing that occurs within a short period of time after repayment of a prior loan either at the point at which a State-mandated cooling-off period ends or at the point at which the consumer, having repaid the prior loan, runs out of money.\101\ A more detailed discussion of sequence length is provided in the section-by-

    section discussion of Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(14) and 1041.5 and in Market Concerns--Underwriting.

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    \99\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 22.

    \100\ CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 129.

    \101\ The Bureau's Report on Supplemental Findings analyzed payday loan usage patterns with varying definitions of loan sequence length, including 30-days. CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 109-114. Other reports have proposed other definitions of sequence length including 30 days. See Marc Anthony Fusaro & Patricia J. Cirillo, Do Payday Loans Trap Consumers in a Cycle of Debt?, at 12 (2011), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1960776&download=yes; (sequences based on the borrower's pay period); nonPrime 101, ``Report 7B: Searching for Harm in Storefront Payday Lending, A Critical Analysis of the CFPB's `Debt Trap' Data,'' at 4 n.9 (2016), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Report-7-B-Searching-for-Harm-in-Storefront-Payday-Lending-nonPrime101.pdf. See Market Concerns--Underwriting below for an additional discussion of these alternative definitions.

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    Other studies are broadly consistent. For example, a 2013 report based on lender data from Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and South Carolina found that 85 percent of loans were made to borrowers with seven or more loans per year, and 62 percent of loans were made to borrowers with 12 or more loans per year. These four States have restrictions on payday loans such as cooling-off periods and limits on rollovers that are enforced by State-regulated databases, as well as voluntary extended repayment plans.\102\ An updated report on Florida payday loan usage derived from the State database noted this trend has continued, with 83 percent of payday loans in 2015 made to borrowers with seven or more loans and 57 percent of payday loans that same year made to borrowers with 12 or more loans.\103\ In Alabama's first year of tracking payday loans with a single database, it reported that almost 50 percent of borrowers had seven or more payday loans and almost 37 percent of borrowers had 10 or more payday loans.\104\ Other reports have found that over 80 percent of total payday loans and loan volume is due to repeat borrowing within 30 days of a prior loan.\105\ One trade association has acknowledged that ``in any large, mature payday loan portfolio, loans to repeat borrowers generally constitute between 70 and 90 percent of the portfolio, and for some lenders, even more.'' \106\ A recent report by a specialty consumer reporting agency confirms that the industry's business model relies on repeat customers, noting that over half of all loans are made to returning customers and stating ``this finding suggests that even though new customers are critical, existing customers are the most productive.'' \107\ Market Concerns--Underwriting below discusses the impact of these outcomes for consumers who are unable to repay and either default or re-borrow.

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    \102\ Susanna Montezemolo, ``The State of Lending in America & Its Impact on U.S. Households: Payday Lending Abuses and Predatory Practices,'' at 12 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending 2013), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/uploads/10-payday-loans.pdf. For additional information on Florida loan use, see Veritec Solutions, ``State of Florida Case Study: Deferred Presentment Program,'' (Implemented 2002), available at http://www.veritecs.com/case-studies/floridas-deferred-presentation-database-and-program-solution/.

    \103\ Brandon Coleman & Delvin Davis, ``Perfect Storm: Payday Lenders Harm Florida Consumer Despite State Law,'' at 4 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2016), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/nodes/files/research-publication/crl_perfect_storm_florida_mar2016_0.pdf.

    \104\ Veritec Solutions, ``State of Alabama Deferred Presentment Services Program, Report on Alabama Deferred Presentment Loan Activity, October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016,'' available at http://www.banking.alabama.gov/pdf/press%20release/InterimRptStatewideDatabase10_1_15to9_30_16.pdf.

    \105\ Leslie Parrish & Uriah King, ``Phantom Demand: Short-term Due Date Generates Need for Repeat Payday Loans, Accounting for 76% of Total Volume,'' at 11-12 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2009), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/phantom-demand-final.pdf.

    \106\ Letter from Hilary B. Miller, on behalf of Community Fin. Servs. Ass'n. of America to Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (June 20, 2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_cfsa-information-quality-act-petition-to-CFPB.pdf (Petition of Community Financial Services Association of America For Retraction of Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products: A White Paper of Initial Data Findings, at 5.).

    \107\ Clarity Services, Inc., ``2017 Subprime Lending Trends: Insights into Consumers & the Industry,'' at 8 (2017), available at https://www.clarityservices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Subprime-Lending-Report-2017-Clarity-Services-3.28.17.pdf. This finding does not distinguish between storefront and online lenders, nor is it expressly limited to single payment loans.

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    Recent regulatory and related industry developments. A number of Federal and State regulatory developments have occurred over the last 15 years as concerns about the effects of payday lending have spread. Regulators have found that the industry has tended to shift to new models and products in response.

    Since 2000, it has been clear from commentary added to Regulation Z, that payday loans constitute ``credit'' under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and that cost of credit disclosures are required to be provided in payday loan transactions, regardless of how State law characterizes payday loan fees.\108\

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    \108\ 12 CFR part 1026, supplement I, comment 2(a)(14)-2.

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    In 2006, Congress enacted the Military Lending Act (MLA) to address concerns that servicemembers and their families were becoming over-

    indebted in high-cost forms of credit.\109\ The MLA, as

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    implemented by the Department of Defense's regulation, imposes two broad classes of requirements applicable to a creditor. First, the creditor may not impose a military annual percentage rate (MAPR) \110\ greater than 36 percent in connection with an extension of consumer credit to a covered borrower. Second, when extending consumer credit, the creditor must satisfy certain other terms and conditions, such as providing certain information, both orally and in a form the borrower can keep, before or at the time the borrower becomes obligated on the transaction or establishes the account; refraining from requiring the borrower to submit to arbitration in the case of a dispute involving the consumer credit; and refraining from charging a penalty fee if the borrower prepays all or part of the consumer credit. In 2007, the Department of Defense issued its initial regulation under the MLA, limiting the Act's application to closed-end loans with a term of 91 days or less in which the amount financed did not exceed $2,000; closed-end vehicle title loans with a term of 181 days or less; and closed-end tax refund anticipation loans.\111\ However, the Department found that evasions developed in the market as ``the extremely narrow definition of `consumer credit' in the then-existing rule permits a creditor to structure its credit products in order to reduce or avoid altogether the obligations of the MLA.'' \112\

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    \109\ The Military Lending Act, part of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, was signed into law in October 2006. The interest rate cap took effect October 1, 2007. See 10 U.S.C. 987.

    \110\ The military annual percentage rate is an ``all-in'' APR that includes a broader range of fees and charges than the APR that must be disclosed under the Truth in Lending Act. See 32 CFR 232.4.

    \111\ 72 FR 50580 (Aug. 31, 2007).

    \112\ 80 FR 43560, 43567 n.78 (July 22, 2015).

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    As a result, effective October 2015 the Department of Defense expanded its definition of covered credit to include open-end credit and longer-term loans so that the MLA protections generally apply to all credit subject to the requirements of Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act, other than certain products excluded by statute.\113\ In general, creditors must comply with the new regulations for extensions of credit after October 3, 2016; for credit card accounts, creditors are required to comply with the new rule starting October 3, 2017.\114\

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    \113\ 80 FR 43560 (July 22, 2015).

    \114\ 80 FR 43560 (July 22, 2015).

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    At the State level, the last States to enact legislation authorizing payday lending--Alaska and Michigan--did so in 2005.\115\ At least 11 States and jurisdictions that previously had authorized payday loans have taken steps to restrict or eliminate payday lending. In 2001, North Carolina became the first State that had previously permitted payday loans to adopt an effective ban by allowing the authorizing statute to expire. In 2004, Georgia also enacted a law banning payday lending.

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    \115\ Alaska Stat. secs. 06.50.010-900; Mich. Comp. Laws secs. 487.2121-.2173.

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    In 2008, the Ohio legislature adopted the Short Term Lender Act with a 28 percent APR cap, including all fees and charges, for short-

    term loans and repealed the existing Check-Cashing Lender Law that authorized higher rates and fees.\116\ In a referendum later that year, Ohioans voted against reinstating the Check-Cashing Lender Law, leaving the 28 percent APR cap and the Short Term Lending Act in effect.\117\ After the vote, some payday lenders began offering vehicle title loans. Other lenders continued to offer payday loans utilizing Ohio's Credit Service Organization Act \118\ and the Mortgage Loan Act; \119\ the latter practice was upheld by the State Supreme Court in 2014.\120\ Also in 2008, the District of Columbia banned payday lending which had been a permissible activity under the District's check cashing law, making the loans subject to the District's 24 percent per annum maximum interest rate cap.\121\

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    \116\ Ohio Rev. Code secs. 1321.35 and 1321.40.

    \117\ See generally Ohio Neighborhood Fin., Inc. v. Scott, 139 Ohio St.3d 536, 13 N.E. 3d 1115 (2014).

    \118\ Ohio Rev. Code sec. 4712.01.

    \119\ Ohio Rev. Code sec. 1321.52(C).

    \120\ Scott, 139 Ohio St.3d 536, 13 N.E. 3d 1115 (2014).

    \121\ Payday Loan Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2007, DC Act 17-42 (2007); D.C. Official Code sec. 28-3301(a) (2011).

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    In 2010, Colorado's legislature banned short-term single-payment balloon loans in favor of longer-term, six-month loans. Colorado's regulatory framework is described in more detail in the discussion of payday installment lending below.

    As of July 1, 2010, Arizona effectively prohibited payday lending after the authorizing statute expired and a statewide referendum that would have continued to permit payday lending failed to pass.\122\ However, small-dollar lending activity continues in the State. The State financial regulator issued an alert in 2013, in response to complaints about online unlicensed lending, advising consumers and lenders that payday and consumer loans of $1,000 or less are generally subject to a rate of 36 percent per annum and loans in violation of those rates are void.\123\ In addition, vehicle title loans continue to be made in Arizona as secondary motor vehicle finance transactions.\124\ The number of licensed vehicle title lenders has increased by about 300 percent since the payday lending law expired and now exceeds the number of payday lenders that were licensed prior to the ban.\125\

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    \122\ Ariz. Rev. Stat. sec. 6-1263; Ariz. Sec'y of State, ``State of Arizona Official Canvass,'' at 15 (2008), available at http://apps.azsos.gov/election/2008/General/Canvass2008GE.pdf; Ariz. Att'y Gen. Off., ``Operation Sunset FAQ,'' available at https://www.azag.gov/sites/default/files/sites/all/docs/consumer/op-sunset-FAQ.pdf.

    \123\ Ariz. Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Consumers, Financial Institutions and Enterprises Conducting Business in Arizona, available at http://www.azdfi.gov/LawsRulesPolicy/Forms/FE-AD-PO-Regulatory_and_Consumer_Alert_CL_CO_13_01%2002-06-2013.pdf.

    \124\ Ariz. Rev. Stat. sec. 44-281 and 44-291; Arizona Dept. of Fin. Insts., ``Frequently Asked Questions from Licensees, Question #6 `What is a Title Loan','' http://www.azdfi.gov/Licensing/Licensing_FAQ.html#MVDSFC (last visited Apr. 20, 2016).

    \125\ These include loans ``secured'' by borrowers' registrations of encumbered vehicles. Jean Ann Fox et al., ``Wrong Way: Wrecked by Debt, Auto Title Lending in America'' at 9 (Consumer Fed'n of America, Ctr. for Econ. Integrity, 2016), available at http://consumerfed.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/160126_wrongway_report_cfa-cei.pdf.

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    In 2009, Virginia amended its payday lending law. It extended the minimum loan term to the length of two income periods, added a 45-day cooling-off period after substantial time in debt (the fifth loan in a 180-day period) and a 90-day cooling-off period after completing an extended payment plan, and implemented a database to enforce limits on loan amounts and frequency. The payday law applies to closed-end loans. Virginia has no interest rate regulations or licensure requirements for open-end credit.\126\ After the amendments, a number of lenders that were previously licensed as payday lenders in Virginia, and that offer closed-end payday loans in other States, switched to offering open-end credit in Virginia without State licenses.\127\

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    \126\ Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-312.

    \127\ See, e.g., CashNetUSA, ``What We Offer'' https://www.cashnetusa.com/what-we-offer.html (last visited Sept. 16, 2017) (CashNetUSA is part of Enova); Check Into Cash, ``Virginia Line of Credit,'' https://checkintocash.com/virginia-line-of-credit/ (last visited Sept. 16, 2017); Allied Cash Advance, ``Get the Cash You Need Now'' https://www.alliedcash.com/ (last visited Sept. 16, 2017) (``VA: Loans made through open-end credit account.''); First Virginia Loans, ``Get Cash Fast'' https://www.ccfi.com/firstvirginialoans/ (last visited Sept. 16, 2017) (First Virginia is part of Community Choice, see Community Choice Fin. Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), Exhibit 21.1). See also, Commonwealth of Virginia State Corp. Comm'n, ``Payday Lender License Surrenders as of January 1, 2012,'' available at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/SCC-INTERNET/bfi/reg_inst/sur/pay_sur_0112.pdf (for a list of payday lender license surrenders and dates of surrender).

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    Washington and Delaware have restricted repeat borrowing by imposing limits on the number of payday loans consumers may obtain. In 2009,

    Page 54486

    Washington made several changes to its payday lending law. These changes, effective January 1, 2010, include a cap of eight loans per borrower from all lenders in a rolling 12-month period where there had been no previous limit on the number of total loans, an extended repayment plan for any loan, and a database to which lenders are required to report all payday loans.\128\ In 2013, Delaware, a State with no fee restrictions for payday loans, implemented a cap of five payday loans, including rollovers, in any 12-month period.\129\ Delaware defines payday loans as loans due within 60 days for amounts up to $1,000. Some Delaware lenders have shifted from payday loans to longer-term installment loans with interest-only payments followed by a final balloon payment of the principal and an interest fee payment--

    sometimes called a ``flexpay'' loan.\130\

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    \128\ Wash. Dep't of Fin. Insts., ``2010 Payday Lending Report,'' at 1-3, available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2010-payday-lending-report.pdf.

    \129\ Del. Code Ann. 5 secs. 2227(7), 2235A(a)(1).

    \130\ See, e.g., James v. National Financial, LLC, 132 A.3d 799, 837 (2016) (holding loan agreement unconscionable and invalid).

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    In 2016, South Dakota voters approved a ballot measure instituting a 36 percent APR limit for all consumer loans made by licensed lenders.\131\ The measure passed with approximately 75 percent of voters supporting it.\132\ Subsequently, a number of lenders previously licensed to do business in the State either declined to renew their licenses or indicated that they would not originate new loans that would be subject to the cap.\133\

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    \131\ Press Release, S.D., Dep't of Labor and Regulation, ``Initiated Measure 21 Approved,'' (Nov. 10, 2016), available at http://dlr.sd.gov/news/releases16/nr111016_initiated_measure_21.pdf.

    \132\ S.D., Sec'y of State, ``South Dakota Official Election Returns and Registration Figures,'' at 39 (2016), available at https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/ElectionReturns2016_Web.pdf.

    \133\ Dana Ferguson, ``Payday Lenders Flee South Dakota After Rate Cap,'' Argus Leader (Jan. 6, 2017), http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/06/payday-lenders-flee-sd-after-rate-cap/96103624/.

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    New Mexico enacted legislation in 2017 that will effectively prohibit single payment payday loans. It requires small-dollar loans to have minimum loan terms of 120 days and be repaid in four or more installments.\134\ The legislation will take effect on January 1, 2018.\135\ The legislation also sets a usury limit of 175 percent APR and will apply to short-term vehicle title loans.

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    \134\ N.M. H.B. 347.

    \135\ N.M. H.B. 347.

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    In 2017, several other States also passed legislation related to payday lending. Arkansas passed a law clarifying that fees charged by credit service organizations are interest under the State's constitutional usury limit of 17 percent per annum.\136\ Utah amended its existing law that prohibits rollovers of payday loans for more than 10 weeks by prohibiting lenders from originating new loans for borrowers to repay prior ones.\137\

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    \136\ 2017 Ark. S.B. 658, Arkansas 91st General Assembly, Title: To Create the Credit Repair Services Organizations Act of 2017, and to Repeal the Credit Services Repair Act of 1987.

    \137\ 2017 Utah H.B. 40, Utah 62nd Legislature, 2017 General Session, Title: Check Cashing and Deferred Deposit Lending Amendments Sess.

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    At least 41 Texas municipalities have adopted local ordinances setting business regulations on payday lending (and vehicle title lending).\138\ Some of the ordinances, such as those in Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, include requirements such as limits on loan amounts (no more than 20 percent of the borrower's gross annual income for payday loans), limits on the number of rollovers, required amortization of the principal loan amount on repeat loans--usually in 25 percent increments, record retention for at least three years, and a registration requirement.\139\ On a statewide basis, there are no Texas laws specifically governing payday lenders or payday loan terms; credit access businesses that act as loan arrangers or broker payday loans (and vehicle title loans) are regulated and subject to licensing, reporting, and requirements to provide consumers with disclosures about repayment and re-borrowing rates.\140\

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    \138\ A description of the municipalities is available at Texas Municipal League. An additional 16 Texas municipalities have adopted land use ordinances on payday or vehicle title lending. Texas Municipal League, ``City Regulation of Payday and Auto Title Lenders,'' http://www.tml.org/payday-updates (last visited April 26, 2017).

    \139\ Other municipalities have adopted similar ordinances. For example, at least seven Oregon municipalities, including Portland and Eugene, have enacted ordinances that include a 25 percent amortization requirement on rollovers and a requirement that lenders offer a no-cost payment plan after two rollovers. See Portland, Or., Code sec. 7.26.050; Eugene Or., Code sec. 3.556.

    \140\ CABs must include a pictorial disclosure with the percentage of borrowers who will repay the loan on the due date and the percentage who will roll over (called renewals) various times. See Texas Off. of Consumer Credit Commissioner, ``Credit Access Businesses'' http://occc.texas.gov/industry/cab (last visited Sept. 16, 2017). The CABs, rather than the lenders, maintain storefront locations, and qualify borrowers, service and collect the loans for the lenders. CABs may also guaranty the loans. There is no cap on CAB fees and when these fees are included in the loan finance charges, the disclosed APRs for Texas payday and vehicle title loans are similar to those in other States with deregulated rates. See Ann Baddour, ``Why Texas' Small Dollar Lending Market Matter,'' (Fed. Reserve Bank of Dallas, e-Perspectives Issue 2, 2012), available at https://www.fedinprint.org/items/feddep/y2012n2x1.html. In 2004, a Federal appellate court dismissed a putative class action related to these practices. Lovick v. RiteMoney, Ltd., 378 F.3d 433 (5th Cir. 2004).

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    Online Payday Lending

    With the growth of the Internet, a significant online payday lending industry has developed. Some storefront lenders use the Internet as an additional method of originating payday loans in the States in which they are licensed to do business. In addition, there are now a number of lenders offering what are referred to as ``hybrid'' payday loans, through the Internet. Hybrid payday loans are structured so that rollovers occur automatically unless the consumer takes affirmative action to pay off the loan, thus effectively creating a series of interest-only payments followed by a final balloon payment of the principal amount and an additional fee.\141\ Hybrid loans structured as single payment loans with automatic rollovers \142\ and longer-term loans with a final balloon payment \143\ are covered by the final rule's Ability-to-Repay

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    requirements as discussed more fully below.

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    \141\ nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small Dollar Lending--Basic Demographics and Loan Characteristics,'' at 2-3, (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending-Final.pdf. The report refers to these automatic rollovers as ``renewals.''

    \142\ Examples of hybrid payday loans requiring borrower affirmative action to opt out of automatic rollovers are described in recent litigation by the Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Loans by Integrity Advance contained default terms that caused loans to automatically roll over four times with charges added at each rollover before any payments were applied to the principal. See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Online Lender for Deceiving Borrowers,'' (Nov.18, 2015), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-online-lender-for-deceiving-borrowers/. Similarly, OneClickCash was an online lender that offered loans with a TILA disclosure as a single repayment loan, but unless borrowers satisfied certain pre-conditions they were automatically enrolled in a 10 pay-period renewal plan with new finance charges accruing each pay period and no payments applied to the principal balance until the fifth payment. See Order, Fed. Trade Comm'n v. AMG Services, Inc., No. 12-00536 (D. Nev. Mar. 07, 2014), ECF No. 559, available at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/140319amgorder.pdf. See also, Sierra Lending, ``FAQ, How do I repay?,'' https://www.sierralending.com/Home/FAQ (last visited July 20, 2017) (consumer must call online payday lender at least three business days prior to due date or lender will automatically withdraw only the finance charge and loan will roll over).

    \143\ The Bureau is aware of a number of examples of storefront and online longer-term loans with final balloon payments. For instance, a loan agreement for a $200 loan from National Financial LLC d/b/a Loan Till Payday LLC required the borrower to pay 26 bi-

    weekly payments of $60 with a final balloon payment of $260. See, James v. National Financial, LLC, 132 A.3d 799, 837 (2016) (holding loan agreement unconscionable and invalid). Additionally the Bureau is aware of a Texas loan for $365.60, arranged through a credit access business, to be repaid in five payments of $108 with a sixth, final payment of $673.70.

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    Industry size, structure, and products. The size of the online payday market is difficult to measure for a number of reasons. First, many online lenders offer a variety of products beyond single-payment loans (what the Bureau refers to as payday loans) and hybrid loans (which the Bureau views as a form of payday lending and falls within the final rule's definition of short-term loans), including longer-term installment loans; this poses challenges in sizing the portion of these firms' business that is attributable to payday and hybrid loans. Second, most online payday lenders are not publicly traded, which means that minimal financial information is available about this market segment. Third, many online payday lenders claim exemption from State lending laws and licensing requirements on the basis that they are located and operated from other jurisdictions. Consequently, these lenders report less information publicly, whether individually or in aggregate compilations, than lenders holding traditional State licenses. Finally, storefront payday lenders who are also using the online channel generally do not separately report their online originations. Bureau staff's reviews of the largest storefront lenders' Web sites indicate an increased focus in recent years on online loan origination.

    With these caveats, a frequently cited industry analyst has estimated that by 2012, online payday loans had grown to generate nearly an equivalent amount of fee revenue as storefront payday loans on roughly 62 percent of the origination volume, about $19 billion, but originations had then declined somewhat to roughly $15.9 billion by 2015.\144\ This trend appears consistent with storefront payday loans, as discussed above, and is likely related at least in part to increasing lender migration from short-term into longer-term products. Online payday loan fee revenue has been estimated at $3.1 billion for 2015, or 19 percent of origination volume.\145\ However, these estimates may be both over- and under-inclusive; they may not differentiate precisely between online lenders' short-term and longer-

    term loans, and they may not account for the online lending activities by storefront payday lenders.

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    \144\ John Hecht, ``The State of Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity, Evolution and Innovation'' (2016) (Jefferies LLC, slide presentation) (on file); John Hecht, ``The State of Short-Term Credit in a Constantly Changing Environment'' (2015) (Jeffries LLC, slide presentation) (on file); Jessica Silver-Greenberg, ``Major Banks Aid in Payday Loans Banned by States,'' N.Y. Times, Feb. 23, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/business/major-banks-aid-in-payday-loans-banned-by-states.html.

    \145\ John Hecht, ``The State of Short-Term Credit Amid Ambiguity, Evolution and Innovation'' (2016) (Jefferies LLC, slide presentation) (on file).

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    Whatever the precise size, the online industry can broadly be divided into two segments: online lenders licensed in the State in which the borrower resides and lenders that are not licensed in the borrower's State of residence.

    The first segment consists largely of storefront lenders with an online channel to complement their storefronts as a means of originating loans, as well as a few online-only payday lenders who lend to borrowers in States where they have obtained State lending licenses. Because this segment of online lenders is State-licensed, State administrative payday lending reports include these data but generally do not differentiate loans originated online from those originated in storefronts. Accordingly, this portion of the market is included in the market estimates summarized above, and the lenders consider themselves to be subject to, or generally follow, the relevant State laws discussed above.

    The second segment consists of lenders that claim exemption from State lending laws. Some of these lenders claim exemption because their loans are made from physical locations outside of the borrower's State of residence, including from off-shore locations outside of the United States.\146\ Other lenders claim exemption because they are lending from Tribal lands, with such lenders claiming that they are regulated by the sovereign laws of ``federally recognized Indian tribes.'' \147\ These lenders claim immunity from suit to enforce State or Federal consumer protection laws on the basis of their sovereign status.\148\ A Federal appellate court recently rejected claims of immunity from the Bureau's civil investigative demands by several Tribal-related lenders, finding that ``Congress did not expressly exclude tribes from the Bureau's enforcement authority.'' \149\

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    \146\ For example, in 2015 the Bureau filed a lawsuit in Federal district court against NDG Enterprise, NDG Financial Corp., Northway Broker, Ltd., and others alleging that defendants illegally collected online payday loans that were void or that consumers had no obligations to repay, and falsely threatened consumers with lawsuits and imprisonment. Several defendants are Canadian corporations and others are incorporated in Malta. The case is pending. See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Sues Offshore Payday Lender'' (Aug. 4, 2015), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-sues-offshore-payday-lender/.

    \147\ 12 U.S.C. 5481(27). According to a tribal trade association representative, about 30 tribes are involved in the payday lending industry. Julia Harte & Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein, ``Payday Nation, When Tribes Team Up with Payday Lenders, Who Profits?,'' AlJazeera America, June 17, 2014, http://projects.aljazeera.com/2014/payday-nation/. The Bureau is unaware of other public sources for an estimate of the number of tribal lenders.

    \148\ See First Amended Complaint, Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau v. CashCall, Inc., No. 13-13167 (D. Mass. Mar. 21, 2014), ECF No. 27, available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201403_cfpb_amended-complaint_cashcall.pdf; Complaint for Permanent Injunction and Other Relief, Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau v. Golden Valley Lending Inc., No. 17-3155 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 27, 2017), ECF No. 1, available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201704_cfpb_Golden-Valley_Silver-Cloud_Majestic-Lake_complaint.pdf; Order, Fed. Trade Comm'n v. AMG Services, Inc., No. 12-00536 (D. Nev. Mar. 07, 2014), ECF No. 559, available at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/140319amgorder.pdf; State ex rel. Suthers v. Cash Advance & Preferred Cash Loans, 205 P.3d 389 (Colo. App. 2008), aff'd sub nom; Cash Advance & Preferred Cash Loans v. State, 242 P.3d 1099 (Colo. 2010); California v. Miami Nation Enterprises, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 800 (2014).

    \149\ CFPB v. Great Plains Lending, LLC, 846 F.3d 1049, 1058 (9th Cir. 2017), reh'g denied (Apr. 5, 2017).

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    A frequently cited source of data on this segment of the market is a series of reports using data from a specialty consumer reporting agency serving certain online lenders, most of whom are unlicensed.\150\ These data are not representative of the entire online industry, but nonetheless cover a large enough sample (2.5 million borrowers over a period of four years) to be significant. These reports indicate the following concerning this market segment:

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    \150\ nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small Dollar Lending--Basic Demographics and Loan Characteristics,'' at 9, (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending-Final.pdf.

    Although the mean and median loan size among the payday borrowers in this dataset are only slightly higher than the information reported above for storefront payday loans,\151\ the online payday lenders charge higher rates than storefront lenders. As noted above, most of the online lenders reporting this data claim exemption from State laws and do not comply with State rate caps. The median loan fee in this dataset is $23.53 per $100 borrowed, compared to $15 per $100 borrowed for storefront payday loans. The mean fee amount is even higher at $26.60 per $100 borrowed.\152\ Another study based on a similar dataset from three online payday lenders is generally consistent, putting the

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    range of online payday loan fees at between $18 and $25 per $100 borrowed.\153\

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    \151\ The median online payday loan size is $400, compared to a median loan size of $350 for storefront payday loans. nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small Dollar Lending--Basic Demographics and Loan Characteristics,'' at 10, (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending-Final.pdf.

    \152\ nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small Dollar Lending--Basic Demographics and Loan Characteristics,'' at 10, (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending-Final.pdf.

    \153\ G. Michael Flores, ``The State of Online Short-Term Lending, Second Annual Statistical Analysis Report'' Bretton-Woods, Inc., at 15 (Feb. 28, 2014), available at http://onlinelendersalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015-Bretton-Woods-Online-Lending-Study-FINAL.pdf.

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    More than half of the payday loans made by these online lenders are hybrid payday loans. As described above, a hybrid loan involves automatic rollovers with payment of the loan fee until a final balloon payment of the principal and fee.\154\ For the hybrid payday loans, the most frequently reported payment amount is 30 percent of principal, implying a finance charge during each pay period of $30 for each $100 borrowed.\155\

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    \154\ nonPrime101, ``Report 5--Loan Product Structures and Pricing in Internet Installment Lending, Similarities to and Differences from Payday Lending and Implications for CFPB Rulemaking,'' at 4 (May 15, 2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Report-5-Loan-Product-Structures-1.3-5.21.15-Final3.pdf. As noted above, these loans may also be called flexpay loans. Such loans would likely be covered longer-term loans under this rule.

    \155\ nonPrime101, ``Report 5--Loan Product Structures and Pricing in Internet Installment Lending, Similarities to and Differences from Payday Lending and Implications for CFPB Rulemaking,'' at 6 (May 15, 2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Report-5-Loan-Product-Structures-1.3-5.21.15-Final3.pdf.

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    Unlike storefront payday loan borrowers who generally return to the same store to re-borrow, the credit reporting data may suggest that online borrowers tend to move from lender to lender. As discussed further below, however, it is difficult to evaluate whether some of this apparent effect is due to online lenders simply not consistently reporting lending activity.\156\

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    \156\ See generally nonPrime101, ``Report 7-A--How Persistent is the Borrower-Lender Relationship in Payday Lending,'' (Sept. 10, 2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Report-7A-How-Persistent-Is-the-Borrow-Lender-Relationship_1023151.pdf.

    Marketing, underwriting, and collection practices. As with most online lenders in other markets, online payday lenders have utilized direct marketing, lead generators, and other forms of advertising for customer acquisition. Lead generators, via Web sites advertising payday loans usually in the form of banner advertisements or paid search results (the advertisements that appear at the top of an Internet search on Google, Bing, or other search engines) operated by ``publishers,'' collect consumers' personal and financial information and electronically offer it to lenders that have expressed interest in consumers meeting certain criteria.\157\ In July 2016, Google banned ads for loans with APRs over 36 percent or with repayment due in 60 days or less.\158\ From the Bureau's market outreach activities it is aware that the payday lending industry's use of lead generators has decreased but that payday lenders may be using other forms of advertising for customer acquisition and retention.

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    \157\ For more information about the use of lead generators in the payday market, see Fed. Trade Comm'n, ``Follow the Lead Workshop: Staff Perspective'' (Sept. 2016), available at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/staff-perspective-follow-lead/staff_perspective_follow_the_lead_workshop.pdf.

    \158\ Google announced that it was ``banning payday loans and some related products from our ads systems,'' in an attempt to ``protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products.'' The changes to Google's advertising service, AdWords, went into effect on July 13, 2016, and on its face apply to lenders, lead generators, and others. In the six months following the new policy's introduction, Google reported removing five million payday loan ads from its services. However, some observers have questioned the effectiveness of Google's policy. See David Graff, ``An Update to Our AdWords Policy on Lending Products,'' Google The Keyword Blog (May 11, 2016), https://blog.google/topics/public-policy/an-update-to-our-adwords-policy-on/; Scott Spencer, ``How We Fought Bad Ads, Sites and Scammers in 2016,'' Google The Keyword Blog (Jan. 25, 2017), https://blog.google/topics/ads/how-we-fought-bad-ads-sites-and-scammers-2016/; David Dayen, ``Google Said It Would Ban All Payday Loan Ads. It Didn't'' The Intercept, Oct. 7, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/10/07/google-said-it-would-ban-all-payday-loan-ads-it-didnt/.

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    Online lenders view fraud (i.e., consumers who mispresent their identity) as a significant risk and also express concerns about ``bad faith'' borrowing (i.e., consumers with verified identities who borrow without the intent to repay).\159\ Consequently, online payday and hybrid payday lenders attempt to verify the borrower's identity and the existence of a bank account in good standing. Several specialty consumer reporting agencies have evolved primarily to serve the online payday lending market. The Bureau is aware from market outreach that online lenders also generally report loan closure information on a real-time or daily basis to the specialty consumer reporting agencies. In addition, some online lenders report to the Bureau that they use nationwide credit report information to evaluate both credit and potential fraud risk associated with first-time borrowers, including recent bankruptcy filings. However, there is evidence that online lenders do not consistently utilize credit report data for every loan, and instead typically check and report data only for new borrowers or those returning after an extended absence from the lender's records.\160\

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    \159\ For example, Enova states that it uses its own analysis of previous fraud incidences and third party data to determine if applicant information submitted matches other indicators and whether the applicant can authorize transactions from the submitted bank account. In addition, it uses proprietary models to predict fraud. Enova Int'l Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 8-9.

    \160\ Based on the Bureau's market outreach with lenders and specialty consumer reporting agencies.

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    Typically, proceeds from online payday loans are disbursed electronically into the consumer's bank account and the consumer authorizes the lender to electronically debit her account to repay the loan as payments are due. The Bureau is aware from market monitoring that lenders employ various practices to encourage consumers to agree to authorize electronic debits for repayment. Some lenders generally will not disburse electronically if consumers do not agree to ACH repayment, but instead will require the consumer to wait for a paper loan proceeds check to arrive in the mail.\161\ Some online payday lenders charge higher interest rates or fees to consumers who do not commit to electronic debits.\162\ In addition, some online payday lenders have adopted policies that may delay the crediting of non-ACH payments.\163\

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    \161\ See, e.g., Mobiloans, ``Line of Credit Terms and Conditions,'' www.mobiloans.com/terms-and-conditions (last visited Feb. 5, 2016) (``If you do not authorize electronic payments from your Demand Deposit Account and instead elect to make payments by mail, you will receive your Mobiloans Cash by check in the mail.'').

    \162\ One online payday lender's Web site FAQs states: ``Q: Am I only able to pay through ACH? A: Paying your cash advance via an electronic funds transfer (EFT) or ACH is certainly the easiest, most efficient, and least expensive method. However, should the need for an alternative payment method arises sic, we will be happy to discuss that with you.'' National Payday, ``Frequently Asked Questions,'' https://www.nationalpayday.com/faq/ (last visited July 20, 2017). LendUp's Web site states there may be a fee to make a MoneyGram payment. LendUp, ``Frequently Asked Questions, Paying back your LendUp Loan,'' https://www.lendup.com/faq#paying-loan (last visited July 20, 2017).

    Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and its implementing regulation (Regulation E), lenders cannot condition the granting of credit on a consumer's repayment by preauthorized (recurring) electronic fund transfers, except for credit extended under an overdraft credit plan or extended to maintain a specified minimum balance in the consumer's account. 12 CFR 1005.10(e). The summary in the text of current lender practices is intended to be purely descriptive. The Bureau is not addressing in this rulemaking the question of whether any of the practices described in text are consistent with EFTA.

    \163\ LendUp's Web site states payment by Moneygram or check may involve ``processing times'' of ``1-2 business days'' to apply the payment. LendUp, ``Frequently Asked Questions, Paying back your LendUp Loan,'' https://www.lendup.com/faq#paying-loan (last visited July 20, 2017). LendUp offers both single payment and installment loans, depending on the borrower's State.

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    As noted above, online lenders typically collect payday loans via electronic debits. For a hybrid payday loan the lender seeks to collect the finance charges a pre-set number of times and then eventually collect the principal; for a true payday loan the lender will seek to collect the principal and finance charges when the loan is due. Online payday lenders, like their

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    storefront counterparts, use various models and software, described above, to predict when an electronic debit is most likely to succeed in withdrawing funds from a borrower's bank account. As discussed further below, the Bureau has observed lenders seeking to collect multiple payments on the same day. This pattern may be driven by a practice of dividing the payment amount in half and presenting two debits at once, presumably to reduce the risk of a larger payment being returned for nonsufficient funds. Indeed, the Bureau found that about one-third of presentments by online payday lenders occur on the same day as another request by the same lender from the same account. The Bureau also found that split presentments almost always result in either payment of all presentments or return of all presentments (in which event the consumer will likely incur multiple nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees from the bank). The Bureau's study indicates that when an online payday lender's first attempt to obtain a payment from the consumer's account is unsuccessful, it will make a second attempt 75 percent of the time and if that attempt fails the lender will make a third attempt 66 percent of the time.\164\ As discussed further at part II.D, the success rate on these subsequent attempts is relatively low, and the cost to consumers may be correspondingly high.\165\

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    \164\ See generally CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 14.

    \165\ Because these online lenders may offer single-payment payday, hybrid, and installment loans, reviewing the debits does not necessarily distinguish the type of loan involved. Storefront payday lenders were not included. See CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 7, 13.

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    There is limited information on the extent to which online payday lenders that are unable to collect payments through electronic debits resort to other collection tactics.\166\ The available evidence indicates, however, that online lenders sustain higher credit losses and risk of fraud than storefront lenders. One lender with publicly available financial information that originated both storefront and online single-payment loans reported in 2014, a 49 percent and 71 percent charge-off rate, respectively, for these loans.\167\ Online lenders generally classify as ``fraud'' both consumers who misrepresented their identity in order to obtain a loan and consumers whose identity is verified but default on the first payment due, which is viewed as reflecting the intent not to repay.

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    \166\ One publicly traded online-only lender that makes single-

    payment payday loans as well as online installment loans and lines of credit reports that its call center contacts borrowers by phone, email, and in writing after a missed payment and periodically thereafter and that it also may sell uncollectible charged off debt. Enova Int'l Inc., 2016 Annual Report (Form, 10-K), at 9 (Feb. 24, 2017).

    \167\ Net charge-offs over average balance based on data from Cash America and Enova Forms 10-K. See Cash America Int'l, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 102 (Mar. 13, 2015); Enova Int'l Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 95 (Mar. 20, 2015). Net charge-offs represent single-payment loan losses less recoveries for the year. Averages balance is the average of beginning and end of year single-payment loan receivables. Prior to November 14, 2014, Enova comprised the e-commerce division of Cash America. Using the 2014 Forms 10-K allows for a better comparison of payday loan activity, than the 2015 Forms 10-K, as Cash America's payday loan operations declined substantially after 2014.

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    Business model. While online lenders tend to have fewer costs relating to operation of physical facilities than do storefront lenders, as discussed above, they face higher costs relating to lead acquisition and marketing, loan origination screening to verify applicant identity, and potentially larger losses due to what they classify as ``fraud'' than their storefront competitors.

    Accordingly, it is not surprising that online lenders--like their storefront counterparts--are dependent upon repeated re-borrowing. Indeed, even at a cost of $25 or $30 per $100 borrowed, a typical single online payday loan would generate fee revenue of under $100, which is not sufficient to cover the typical origination costs. Consequently, as discussed above, hybrid loans that roll over automatically in the absence of affirmative action by the consumer account for a substantial percentage of online payday business. These products, while nominally structured as single-payment products, effectively build a number of rollovers into the loan. For example, the Bureau has observed online payday lenders whose loan documents suggest that they are offering a single-payment loan but whose business model is to collect only the finance charges due, roll over the principal, and require consumers to take affirmative steps to notify the lender if consumers want to repay their loans in full rather than allowing them to roll over. The Bureau recently initiated an action against an online lender alleging that it engaged in deceptive practices in connection with such products.\168\ In a recent survey conducted of online payday borrowers, 31 percent reported that they had experienced loans with automatic renewals.\169\

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    \168\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Online Lender for Deceiving Borrowers'' (Nov. 18, 2015), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-online-lender-for-deceiving-borrowers/. The FTC raised and resolved similar claims against online payday lenders. See Press Release, FTC, FTC Secures $4.4 Million From Online Payday Lenders to Settle Deception Charges (Jan. 5, 2016), available at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/01/ftc-secures-44-million-online-payday-lenders-settle-deception.

    \169\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America Fraud and Abuse Online: Harmful Practices in Internet Payday Lending, at 8 (Report 4, 2014), available at www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/

    2014/10/Payday-Lending-Report/

    Fraud_and_Abuse_Online_Harmful_Practices_in_Internet_Payday_Lending.p

    df.

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    As discussed above, a number of online payday lenders claim exemption from State laws and the regulations and limitations established under those laws. As reported by a specialty consumer reporting agency with data from that market, more than half of the payday loans for which information is furnished to it are hybrid payday loans with the most common fee being $30 per $100 borrowed, twice the median amount for storefront payday loans.\170\

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    \170\ nonPrime101, ``Report 5--Loan Product Structures and Pricing in Internet Installment Lending, Similarities to and Differences from Payday Lending and Implications for CFPB Rulemaking,'' at 4, 6 (May 15, 2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Report-5-Loan-Product-Structures-1.3-5.21.15-Final3.pdf; CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 16.

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    Similar to associations representing storefront lenders as discussed above, a national trade association representing online lenders includes loan repayment plans as one of its best practices, but does not provide many details in its public material.\171\ A trade association that represents Tribal online lenders has adopted a set of best practices, but the list does not address repayment plans.\172\

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    \171\ Online Lenders Alliance, ``Best Practices,'' at 29 (May 2017), available at http://onlinelendersalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Best-Practices-2017.pdf. The materials state that its members ``shall comply'' with any required State repayment plans; otherwise, if a borrower is unable to repay a loan according to the loan agreement, the trade association's members ``should create'' repayment plans that ``provide flexibility based on the customer's circumstances.''

    \172\ Native American Fin. Servs. Ass'n, ``Best Practices,'' http://www.mynafsa.org/best-practices/ (last visited Apr. 20, 2016).

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    Vehicle Title Loans, Including Short-Term Loans and Balloon-Payment Products

    Vehicle title loans--also known as ``automobile equity loans''--are another form of liquidity lending permitted in certain States. In a title loan transaction, the borrower must provide identification and usually the title to the vehicle as evidence that the borrower owns the vehicle ``free and clear.'' \173\

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    Unlike payday loans, there is generally no requirement that the borrowers have a bank account, and some lenders do not require a copy of a pay stub or other evidence of income.\174\ Rather than holding a check or ACH authorization for repayment as with a payday loan, the lender generally retains the vehicle title or some other form of security interest that provides it with the right to repossess the vehicle, which may then be sold with the proceeds used for repayment.\175\

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    \173\ Arizona also allows vehicle title loans to be made against as secondary motor vehicle finance transactions. Ariz. Rev. Stat. sec. 44-281, 44-291G; Arizona Dep.t of Fin. Inst., ``Frequently Asked Questions from Licensees, Question #6 `What is a Title Loan.'''

    \174\ See Fast Cash Title Loans, ``FAQ,'' http://fastcashvirginia.com/faq/ (last visited Mar. 3, 2016) (``There is no need to have a checking account to get a title loan.''); Title Max, ``How Title Loans Work,'' https://www.titlemax.com/how-it-works/ (last visited Jan. 15, 2016) (borrowers need a vehicle title and government issued identification plus any additional requirements of State law).

    \175\ See Speedy Cash, ``Title Loans FAQs,'' https://www.speedycash.com/faqs/title-loans/ (last visited Mar. 29, 2016) (title loans are helpful ``when you do not have a checking account to secure your loan. . . . your car serves as collateral for your loan.'').

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    The lender retains the vehicle title or some other form of security interest during the duration of the loan, while the borrower retains physical possession of the vehicle. In some States either the lender files a lien with State officials to record and perfect its interest in the vehicle or charges a fee for non-filing insurance. In a few States, a clear vehicle title is not required, and vehicle title loans may be made as secondary liens against the title or against the borrower's automobile registration.\176\ In some States, such as Georgia, vehicle title loans are made under pawnbroker statutes that specifically permit borrowers to pawn vehicle certificates of title.\177\ Almost all vehicle title lending is conducted at storefront locations, although some title lending does occur online.\178\

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    \176\ See, for example, the discussion above about Arizona law applicable to vehicle title lending.

    \177\ Ga. Code sec. 44-12-131 (2015).

    \178\ See, e.g., the Bureau's action involving Wilshire Consumer Credit for illegal collection practices. Consumers primarily applied for Wilshire's vehicle title loans online. Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Orders Indirect Auto Finance Company to Provide Consumers $44.1 Million in Relief for Illegal Debt Collection Tactics'' (Oct. 1, 2015), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-orders-indirect-auto-finance-company-to-provide-consumers-44-1-million-in-relief-for-illegal-debt-collection-tactics/. See also State actions against Liquidation, LLC d/b/a Sovereign Lending Solutions, LLC and other names, purportedly organized in the Cook Islands, New Zealand. Press Release, Oregon Dep't of Justice, ``AG Rosenblum and DCBS Sue Predatory Title Loan Operator'' (Aug. 18, 2015), available at http://www.doj.state.or.us/releases/Pages/2015/rel081815.aspx; Press Release, Michigan Attorney General, ``Schuette Stops Collections by High Interest Auto Title Loan Company'' (Jan. 26, 2016), available at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-46849-374883-,00.html; Press Release, Pennsylvania Dep't of Banking and Securities, ``Consumers Advised about Illegal Auto Title Loans Following Court Decision'' (Feb. 3, 2016), available at http://www.media.pa.gov/pages/banking_details.aspx?newsid=89; Press Release, North Carolina Dep't of Justice, ``Online Car Title Lender Banned from NC for Unlawful Loans, AG Says'' (May 2, 2016), available at http://www.ncdoj.gov/Home/Search-Results.aspx?searchtext=Ace%20payday&searchmode=AnyWord&searchscope=SearchCurrentSection&page=82; Final Order: Director's Consideration, Washington Dep't of Financial Institutions, Division of Consumer Services v. Auto Loans, LLC a/k/a Car Loan, LLC a/k/a Liquidation, LLC a/k/a Vehicle Liquidation, LLC a/k/a Sovereign Lending Solutions a/k/a Title Loan America, and William McKibbin, Principal, (Apr. 22, 2016), available at http://dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/consumer-services/enforcement-actions/C-15-1804-16-FO02.pdf; Press Release, Colo. Dep't of Law, ``AG Coffman Announces Significant Relief for Victims of Illegal Auto Title Loan Scheme'' (Nov. 30, 2016), available at https://coag.gov/sites/default/files/contentuploads/cp/ConsumerCreditUnit/PressReleases/UCCC/rsfinancialsovereignlending11.30.16.pdf; Press Release, Att'y Gen. of Mass., ``AG Obtains Judgment Voiding Hundreds of Illegal Loans to Massachusetts Consumers in Case Against Online Auto Title Lender'' (May 25, 2017), available at http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-releases/2017/2017-05-25-voiding-hundreds-of-illegal-loans.html. Consumers applied for the title loans online and sent their vehicle titles to the lender. The lender used local agents for repossession services.

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    Product definition and regulatory environment. There are three types of vehicle title loans: Single-payment loans, installment loans, and in at least one State, balloon payment loans.\179\ Of the 24 States that permit some form of vehicle title lending, six States permit only single-payment title loans, 13 States allow the loans to be structured as single-payment or installment loans, and five permit only title installment loans.\180\ (The payment practices of installment title loans are discussed briefly below.) All but three of the States that permit some form of title lending (Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire) also permit payday lending.

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    \179\ The Bureau is aware of Texas vehicle title installment loans structured as longer-term balloon payment loans. One vehicle title loan for $433, arranged through a credit access business, was to be repaid in five payments of $64.91 and a final balloon payment of $519.15. Similarly, another vehicle title loan arranged through a credit access business for $2,471.03 was scheduled to be repaid in five payments for $514.80 with a final balloon payment of $2,985.83.

    \180\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 4 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en. The report lists 25 States but post-

    publication, as noted above, South Dakota effectively prohibited vehicle title lending in November 2016 by adopting a 36 percent APR rate cap. And, as of January 1, 2018, New Mexico vehicle title loans will be required to have a 120-day minimum loan term.

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    Single-payment vehicle title loans are typically due in 30 days and operate much like payday loans: The consumer is charged a fixed price per $100 borrowed, and when the loan is due the consumer is obligated to repay the full amount of the loan plus the fee but is typically given the opportunity to roll over or re-borrow.\181\ The Bureau recently studied anonymized data from vehicle title lenders consisting of nearly 3.5 million loans made to over 400,000 borrowers in 20 States. For single-payment vehicle title loans with a typical duration of 30 days, the median loan amount was $694 with a median APR of 317 percent; the average loan amount was $959 and the average APR was 291 percent.\182\ Two other studies contain similar findings.\183\ Vehicle title loans are therefore for substantially larger amounts than typical payday loans, but carry similar APRs for similar terms. Some States that authorize vehicle title loans limit the rates lenders may charge to a percentage or dollar amount per $100 borrowed, similar to some State payday lending pricing structures. A common fee limit is 25 percent of the loan amount per month, but roughly half of the authorizing States have no restrictions on rates or fees.\184\ Some, but not all, States limit the maximum amount that may be borrowed to a fixed dollar amount, a percentage of the borrower's monthly income (50 percent of the borrower's gross monthly income in Illinois), or a

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    percentage of the vehicle's value.\185\ Some States limit the initial loan term to one month but several States authorize rollovers (including, in Idaho and Tennessee, automatic rollovers arranged at the time of the original loan, resembling the hybrid payday structure described above), with a few States requiring mandatory amortization in amounts ranging from five to 20 percent on rollovers.\186\ Unlike payday loan regulation, few States require cooling-off periods between loans or optional extended repayment plans for borrowers who cannot repay vehicle title loans.\187\

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    \181\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' (2015), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/AutoTitleLoansReport .pdf?la=en; see also Idaho Dep't of Fin., ``Idaho Credit Code `Fast Facts' '', available at http://www.finance.idaho.gov/ConsumerFinance/Documents/Idaho-Credit-Code-Fast-Facts-With-Fiscal-Annual-Report-Data-01012016.pdf; Letter from Greg Gonzales, Comm'r, Tenn. Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Hon. Bill Haslam, Governor and Hon. Members of the 109th General Assembly, at 4 (Apr. 12, 2016) (Report on the Title Pledge Industry), available at http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/tdfi/attachments/Title_Pledge_Report_2016_Final_Draft_Apr_6_2016.pdf.

    \182\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 7.

    \183\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' (2015), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en; Susanna Montezemolo, ``The State of Lending in America & Its Impact on U.S. Households: Payday Lending Abuses and Predatory Practices,'' at 3 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending 2013), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/uploads/10-payday-loans.pdf.

    \184\ States with a 15 percent to 25 percent per month cap include Alabama, Georgia (rate decreases after 90 days), Mississippi, and New Hampshire; Tennessee limits interest rates to 2 percent per month, but also allows for a fee up to 20 percent of the original principal amount. Virginia's fees are tiered at 22 percent per month for amounts up to $700 and then decrease on larger loans. Ala. Code sec. 5-19A-7(a); Ga. Code Ann. sec. 44-12-131(a)(4); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-413(1); N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 399-

    A:18(I)(f); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-15-111(a); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-2216(A).

    \185\ For example, some maximum vehicle title loan amounts are $2,500 in Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee, and $5,000 in Missouri. Illinois limits the loan amount to $4,000 or 50 percent of monthly income, Virginia and Wisconsin limit the loan amount to 50 percent of the vehicle's value and Wisconsin also has a $25,000 maximum loan amount. Examples of States with no limits on loan amounts, limits of the amount of the value of the vehicle, or statutes that are silent about loan amounts include Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah. Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-415(f); N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 58-15-3(A); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-15-115(3); Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 367.527(2); Ill. Admin. Code tit. 38; sec. 110.370(a); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-2215(1)(d); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.16(1)(c); (2)(a); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 44-291(A); Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-46-508(3); S.D. Codified Laws sec. 54-4-44; Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-24-202(3)(c). As noted above, as of January 1, 2018, New Mexico vehicle title loans will be limited to $5,000, with minimum loan terms of 120 days. N.M. H.B. 347.

    \186\ States that permit rollovers include Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Utah. Idaho and Tennessee limit title loans to 30 days but allow automatic rollovers and require a principal reduction of 10 percent and 5 percent respectively, starting with the third rollover. Virginia prohibits rollovers and requires a minimum loan term of at least 120 days. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 5 sec. 2254 (rollovers may not exceed 180 days from date of fund disbursement); Ga. Code Ann. sec. 44-12-138(b)(4); Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-46-

    506(1) & (3); Ill. Admin. Code tit. 38; sec. 110.370(b)(1) (allowing refinancing if principal is reduced by 20 percent); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-413(3); Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 367.512(4); Nev. Rev. Stat. sec. 604A.445(2); N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 399-A:19(II) (maximum of 10 rollovers); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-15-113(a); Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-24-202(3)(a); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-2216(F).

    \187\ Illinois requires 15 days between title loans. Delaware requires title lenders to offer a workout agreement after default but prior to repossession that repays at least 10 percent of the outstanding balance each month. Delaware does not cap fees on title loans and interest continues to accrue on workout agreements. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 38; sec. 110.370(c); Del. Code Ann. 5 secs. 2255 & 2258 (2015).

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    State vehicle title regulations also sometimes address default, repossession and related fees; any cure periods prior to and after repossession; whether the lender must refund any surplus after the repossession and sale or disposition of the vehicle; and whether the borrower is liable for any deficiency remaining after sale or disposition.\188\ Of the States that expressly authorize vehicle title lending, nine are ``non-recourse'' meaning that a lender's remedy upon the borrower's default is limited to repossession of the vehicle unless the borrower has impaired the vehicle by concealment, damage, or fraud.\189\ Other vehicle title lending statutes are silent and do not directly specify whether a lender has recourse against a borrower for any deficiency balance remaining after repossessing the vehicle. An industry trade association commenter stated that title lenders do not sue borrowers or garnish their wages for deficiency balances.

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    \188\ For example, Georgia allows repossession fees and storage fees. Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin specify that any surplus must be returned to the borrower. Mississippi requires that 85 percent of any surplus be returned. Ga. Code Ann. sec. 44-12-131(a)(4)(C); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 47-9608(A)(4); Del. Code Ann. tit. 5, sec. 2260; Idaho Code Ann. sec. 28-9-615(d); Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 408.553; S.D. Codified Laws sec. 54-4-72; Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-

    15-114(b)(2); Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-24-204(3); Va. Code Ann. sec. 6.2-2217(C); Wis. Stat. sec. 138.16(4)(e); Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-

    67-411(5).

    \189\ The non-recourse States include Delaware, Florida (short-

    term loans), Idaho (short-term loans), Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee (short-term loans), Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Del. Code 5-22-V sec. 2260; Fla. Stat. sec. 33.537.012 (5) (2016); Idaho Code 28-46-508 (2); NRS 604A.455-2; S.C. Code of Laws sec. 37-2-

    413(5); Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-15-115 (2); Utah Code Ann. sec.7-24-

    204(1); Va. Code sec. 6.2-2217.A & E; and Wis. Stats. 138.16(4)(f). Kentucky and South Dakota's title lending laws are also non-recourse but those States also have low rate caps that effectively prohibit title loans. Ky. Rev Stat 286.10-275 (2015); S.D. Codified Laws 54-

    4-72. In addition, vehicle title loans are sometimes made under State pawn lending laws that may provide that borrowers have no personal liability to repay pawn loans or obligation to redeem pledged items. See, e.g., O.C.G.A. 44-12-137(a)(7) (2010); La. Rev Stat sec. 37:1803 (2016); Minn. Statutes 325J.08(6) (2016).

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    Some States have enacted general requirements that vehicle title lenders consider a borrower's ability to repay before making a title loan. For example, both South Carolina and Utah require lenders to consider borrower ability to repay, but this may be accomplished through a borrower affirmation that she has provided accurate financial information and has the ability to repay.\190\ Until July 1, 2017, Nevada required title lenders to generally consider a borrower's ability to repay and obtain an affirmation of this fact. Effective July 1st, an amendment to Nevada law requires vehicle title lenders (and payday lenders, as noted above) to assess borrowers' reasonable ability to repay by considering, to the extent available, their current or expected income; current employment status based on a pay stub, bank deposit, or other evidence; credit history; original loan amount due, or for installment loans or potential repayment plans, the monthly payment amount; and other evidence relevant to ability to repay including bank statements and borrowers' written representations.\191\ Missouri requires that lenders consider a borrower's financial ability to reasonably repay the loan under the loan's contract, but does not specify how lenders may satisfy this requirement.\192\

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    \190\ Utah Code Ann. sec. 7-24-202; S.C. Code Ann. sec. 37-3-

    413(3).

    \191\ Nev. Rev. Stat. sec. 640A.450(3); A.B. 163, 79th Sess. (Nev. 2017).

    \192\ Mo. Rev. Stat sec. 367.525(4).

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    Industry size and structure. Information about the vehicle title market is more limited than the storefront payday industry because there are currently no publicly traded monoline vehicle title loan companies, most payday lending companies that offer vehicle title loans are not publicly traded, and less information is generally available from State regulators and other sources.\193\ One national survey conducted in June 2015 found that 1.7 million households reported obtaining a vehicle title loan over the preceding 12 months.\194\ Another study extrapolating from State regulatory reports estimated that about two million Americans used vehicle title loans annually.\195\ In 2014, new vehicle title loan originations were estimated at roughly $2 billion with revenue estimates of $3 to $5.6 billion.\196\ These estimates may not include the full extent of rollovers, as well as vehicle title loan expansion by payday lenders.

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    \193\ A trade association representing several larger title lenders, the American Association of Responsible Auto Lenders, does not have a public-facing Web site but has provided the Bureau with some information about the industry.

    \194\ FDIC, ``2016 Unbanked and Underbanked Survey,'' at 2, 34.

    \195\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 1 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en. Pew's estimate includes borrowers of single-payment and installment vehicle title loans. The FDIC's survey question did not specify any particular type of title loan.

    \196\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 1 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en; Jean Ann Fox et al., ``Driven to Disaster: Car-Title Lending and Its Impact on Consumers,'' at 8 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2013), available at, http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/CRL-Car-Title-Report-FINAL.pdf.

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    There are approximately 8,000 title loan storefront locations in the United States, about half of which also offer payday loans.\197\ Of those locations that

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    predominately offer vehicle title loans, three privately held firms dominate the market and together account for about 3,000 stores in about 20 States.\198\ These lenders are concentrated in the southeastern and southwestern regions of the country.\199\ In addition to the large title lenders, smaller vehicle title lenders are estimated to have about 800 storefront locations,\200\ and as noted above several companies offer both title loans and payday loans.\201\ The Bureau understands that for some firms whose core business had been payday loans, the volume of vehicle title loan originations now exceeds payday loan originations.

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    \197\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 1, 33 n.7 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf.

    \198\ The largest vehicle title lender is TMX Finance, LLC formerly known as Title Max Holdings, LLC with about 1,200 stores in 17 States. It was publicly traded until 2013 when it was taken private. Its last 10-K reported annual revenue of $656.8 million. TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 21 (Mar. 27, 2013). See TMX Finance, ``Careers, We Believe in Creating Opportunity,'' https://www.tmxfinancefamily.com/careers/ (last visited Sept. 17, 2017) (for TMX Finance store counts); Community Loans of America ``About Us,'' https://clacorp.com/about-us (last visited Jun. 19, 2017) (states it has about 1,000 locations across 25 States); Fred Schulte, ``Lawmakers protect title loan firms while borrowers pay sky-high interest rates'' Public Integrity, (updated Sept. 13, 2016), http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/09/18916/lawmakers-protect-title-loan-firms-while-borrowers-pay-sky-high-interest-rates (Select Management Resources has about 700 stores.).

    \199\ Fred Schulte, ``Lawmakers protect title loan firms while borrowers pay sky-high interest rates'' Public Integrity, (updated Sept. 13, 2016), http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/09/18916/lawmakers-protect-title-loan-firms-while-borrowers-pay-sky-high-interest-rates.

    \200\ State reports have been supplemented with estimates from Center for Responsible Lending, revenue information from public filings and from non-public sources. See Jean Ann Fox et al., ``Driven to Disaster: Car-Title Lending and Its Impact on Consumers,'' at 7 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2013) available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/CRL-Car-Title-Report-FINAL.pdf.

    \201\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 1 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en.

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    State loan data also show an overall trend of vehicle title loan growth. The number of borrowers in Illinois taking vehicle title loans increased 77 percent from 2009 to 2013, and then declined 14 percent from 2013 to 2015.\202\ The number of title loans taken out in California increased 183 percent between 2011 and 2016.\203\ In Virginia, from 2011 to 2013, the number of motor vehicle title loans made increased by 38 percent from 128,446 to a peak of 177,775, and the number of individual consumers taking title loans increased by 44 percent, from 105,542 to a peak of 152,002. By 2016, the number of title loans in Virginia decreased to 155,996 and the number of individual consumers taking title loans decreased to 114,042. The average number of loans per borrower remained constant at 1.2 from 2011 to 2015; in 2016 the number of loans per borrower increased to 1.4.\204\ In addition to loans made under Virginia's vehicle title law, a series of reports noted that some Virginia title lenders offered ``consumer finance'' installment loans without the corresponding consumer protections of the vehicle title lending law and, accounted for about ``a quarter of the money loaned in Virginia using automobile titles as collateral.'' \205\ In Tennessee, the number of licensed vehicle title (title pledge) locations at year-end has been measured yearly since 2006. The number of Tennessee locations peaked in 2014 at 1,071, 52 percent higher than the 2006 levels. In 2015, the number of locations declined to 965. However, in each year from 2013 to 2016, the State regulator has reported more licensed locations than existed prior to the State's title lending regulation, the Tennessee Title Pledge Act.\206\

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    \202\ Ill. Dep't. of Fin. & Prof. Reg., ``Illinois Trends Report All Consumer Loan Products Through December 2015,'' at 6 (Apr. 14, 2016), available at http://www.idfpr.com/DFI/CCD/pdfs/IL_Trends_Report%202015-%20FINAL.pdf?ActID=1204&ChapterID=20).

    \203\ Compare 38,148 vehicle title loans in CY 2011 to 108,080 in CY 2016. California Dep't of Corps., ``2011 Annual Report Operation of Finance Companies Licensed under the California Finance Lenders Law,'' at 12 (2012), available at http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Licensees/Finance_Lenders/pdf/CFL2011ARC.pdf; California Dep't of Bus. Oversight, ``2016 Annual Report Operation of Finance Companies Licensed Under the California Finance Lenders Law,'' at 13 (2017), available at http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Licensees/Finance_Lenders/pdf/2016%20CFLL%20Annual%20Report%20FINAL%207-6-17.pdf.

    \204\ Va. State Corp. Comm'n, ``The 2016 Annual Report of the Bureau of Financial Institutions: Payday Lender Licensees, Check Cashers, Motor Vehicle Title Lender Licensees Operating in Virginia at the Close of Business December 31, 2016,'' at 67 (2017), available at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/bfi/annual/ar04-16.pdf; Va. State Corp. Comm'n, ``The 2013 Annual Report of the Bureau of Financial Institutions, Payday Lender Licensees, Check Cashers, Motor Vehicle Title Lender Licensees Operating in Virginia at the Close of Business December 31, 2013,'' at 80 (2014), available at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/bfi/annual/ar04-13.pdf. Because Virginia vehicle title lenders are authorized by State law to make vehicle title loans to residents of other States, the data reported by licensed Virginia vehicle title lenders may include loans made to out-of-State residents.

    \205\ Michael Pope, ``How Virginia Became the Region's Hub For High-Interest Loans,'' WAMU, Oct. 6, 2015, http://wamu.org/news/15/10/06/how_virginia_became_the_regional_leader_for_car_title_loans.

    \206\ Letter from Greg Gonzales, Comm'r,Tennessee Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Hon. Bill Haslam, Governor and Hon. Members of the 108th General Assembly, at 1 (Mar. 31, 2014) (Report on the Title Pledge Industry), available at http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/tdfi/attachments/Title_Pledge_Report_2014.pdf; Letter from Greg Gonzales, Comm'r,Tennessee Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Hon. Bill Haslam, Governor and Hon. Members of the 109th General Assembly, at 2 (Apr. 12, 2016) (Report on the Title Pledge Industry), available at http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/tdfi/attachments/Title_Pledge_Report_2016_Final_Draft_Apr_6_2016.pdf.

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    Vehicle title loan storefront locations serve a relatively small number of customers. One study estimated that the average vehicle title loan store made 218 loans per year, not including rollovers.\207\ Another study using data from four States and public filings from the largest vehicle title lender estimated that the average vehicle title loan store serves about 300 unique borrowers per year--or slightly more than one unique borrower per business day.\208\ The same report estimated that the largest vehicle title lender had 4.2 employees per store.\209\ But, as mentioned, a number of large payday firms offer both products from the same storefront and may use the same employees to do so. In addition, small vehicle title lenders are likely to have fewer employees per location than do larger title lenders.

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    \207\ Jean Ann Fox et al., ``Driven to Disaster: Car-Title Lending and Its Impact on Consumers,'' at 7 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2013) available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/CRL-Car-Title-Report-FINAL.pdf.

    \208\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 5 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en. The four States were Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The public filing was from TMX Finance, the largest lender by store count. Id. at 35 n.37.

    \209\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 22 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en. The estimate is based on TMX Finance's total store and employee count reported in its Form 10-K as of the end of 2012 (1,035 stores and 4,335 employees). TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 3, 6. The calculation does not account for employees at centralized non-storefront locations.

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    Marketing, underwriting, and collections practices. Vehicle title loans are marketed to appeal to borrowers with impaired credit who seek immediate funds. The largest vehicle title lender described title loans as a ``way for consumers to meet their liquidity needs'' and described their customers as those who ``often . . . have a sudden and unexpected need for cash due to common financial challenges.'' \210\ Advertisements for vehicle title loans suggest that title loans can be used ``to cover unforeseen costs this month . . . if utilities are a little higher than you expected,'' if consumers are ``in a bind,'' for a ``short term cash

    Page 54493

    flow'' problem, or for ``fast cash to deal with an unexpected expense.'' \211\ Vehicle title lenders advertise quick loan approval ``in as little as 15 minutes.'' \212\ Some lenders offer promotional discounts for the initial loan and bonuses for referrals,\213\ for example, a $100 prepaid card for referring friends for vehicle title loans.\214\

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    \210\ TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 4, 21.

    \211\ See, e.g., Cash 1, ``Get an Instant Title Loan,'' https://www.cash1titleloans.com/apply-now/arizona.aspx?st-t=cash1titleloans_srch&gclid=Cj0KEQjwoM63BRDK_bf4_MeV3ZEBEiQAuQWqkU6O5gtz6kRjP8T3Al-BvylI-bIKksDT-r0NMPjEG4kaAqZe8P8HAQ; Speedy Cash, ``Title Loans,'' https://www.speedycash.com/title-loans/; Metro Loans, ``FAQs,'' http://metroloans.com/title-loans-faqs/; Lending Bear, ``How it Works,'' https://www.lendingbear.com/how-it-works/; Fast Cash Title Loans, ``FAQ,'' http://fastcashvirginia.com/ (all Web sites last visited Mar. 24, 2016).

    \212\ Check Smart, ``Arizona Vehicle Title Loan,'' http://www.checksmartstores.com/arizona/title-loans/ (last visited Jan. 14, 2016); Fred Schulte, ``Lawmakers protect title loan firms while borrowers pay sky-high interest rates'' Public Integrity, (updated Sept. 13, 2016), http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/09/18916/lawmakers-protect-title-loan-firms-while-borrowers-pay-sky-high-interest-rates.

    \213\ Ctr. for Responsible Lending, ``Car Title Lending: Disregard for Borrowers' Ability to Repay,'' at 1, CRL Policy Brief (May 12, 2014), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/Car-Title-Policy-Brief-Abilty-to-Repay-May-12-2014.pdf.

    \214\ Check Smart, ``Special Offers,'' http://www.checksmartstores.com/arizona/special-offers/ last visited Mar. 29, 2016).

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    The underwriting policies and practices that vehicle title lenders use vary and may depend on such factors as State law requirements and individual lender practices. As noted above, some vehicle title lenders do not require borrowers to provide information about their income and instead rely on the vehicle title and the underlying collateral that may be repossessed and sold in the event the borrower defaults--a practice known as asset-based lending.\215\ The largest vehicle title lender stated in 2011 that its underwriting decisions were based entirely on the wholesale value of the vehicle.\216\ Other title lenders' Web sites state that proof of income is required,\217\ although it is unclear whether employment information is verified or used for underwriting, whether it is used for collections and communication purposes upon default, or for both purposes. The Bureau is aware, from confidential information gathered in the course of its statutory functions, that one or more vehicle title lenders regularly exceed their maximum loan amount guidelines and instruct employees to consider a vehicle's sentimental or use value to the borrower when assessing the amount of funds they will lend.

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    \215\ Advance America's Web site states ``loan amount will be based on the value of your car* (*requirements may vary by state).'' Advance America, ``Title Loans,'' https://www.advanceamerica.net/services/title-loans (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 1 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/

    media/Assets/2015/03/AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en; Fred Schulte, ``Lawmakers protect title loan firms while borrowers pay sky-high interest rates'' Public Integrity, (updated Sept. 13, 2016), http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/09/18916/lawmakers-protect-title-loan-firms-while-borrowers-pay-sky-high-interest-rates.

    \216\ TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 5.

    \217\ See, e.g., Check Into Cash, ``Unlock The Cash In Your Car,'' https://checkintocash.com/title-loans/ (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); Speedy Cash, ``Title Loans,'' https://www.speedycash.com/title-loans/ (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); ACE Cash Express, ``Title Loans,'' https://www.acecashexpress.com/title-loans (last visited Mar. 3, 2016); Fast Cash Title Loans, ``FAQ,'' http://fastcashvirginia.com/faq/ (last visited Mar. 3, 2016).

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    As in the market for payday loans, there have been some studies about the extent of price competition in the vehicle title lending market. Vehicle title lending is almost exclusively a storefront market, as discussed above. The evidence of price competition is mixed. One large title lender stated that it competes on factors such as location, customer service, and convenience, and also highlights its pricing as a competitive factor.\218\ An academic study found evidence of price competition in the vehicle title market, citing the abundance of price-related advertising and evidence that in States with rate caps, such as Tennessee, approximately half of the lenders charged the maximum rate allowed by law, while the other half charged lower rates.\219\ However, another report found that like payday lenders, title lenders compete primarily on location, speed, and customer service, gaining customers by increasing the number of locations rather than underpricing their competition.\220\

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    \218\ TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 6.

    \219\ Jim Hawkins, ``Credit on Wheels: The Law and Business of Auto-Title Lending,'' 69 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 535, 558-559 (2012).

    \220\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 5 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en.

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    Loan amounts are typically for less than half the wholesale value of the consumer's vehicle. Low loan-to-value ratios reduce a lender's risk. A survey of title lenders in New Mexico found that the lenders typically lend between 25 and 40 percent of a vehicle's wholesale value.\221\ At one large title lender, the weighted average loan-to-

    value ratio was found to be 26 percent of Black Book retail value.\222\ The same lender has two principal operating divisions; one division requires that vehicles have a minimum appraised value greater than $500, but the lender will lend against vehicles with a lower appraised value through another brand.\223\

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    \221\ Nathalie Martin & Ozymandias Adams, ``Grand Theft Auto Loans: Repossession and Demographic Realities in Title Lending,'' 77 Mo. L. Rev. 41 (2012).

    \222\ TMX Fin. LLC, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 3 (Mar. 19, 2012).

    \223\ TMX Fin. LLC, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 5 (Mar. 19, 2012).

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    When a borrower defaults on a vehicle title loan, the lender may repossess the vehicle. The Bureau believes, based on market outreach, that the decision whether to repossess a vehicle will depend on factors such as the amount due, the age and resale value of the vehicle, the costs to locate and repossess the vehicle, and State law requirements to refund any surplus amount remaining after the sale proceeds have been applied to the remaining loan balance.\224\ Available information indicates that lenders are unlikely to repossess vehicles they do not expect to sell. The largest vehicle title lender sold 83 percent of the vehicles it repossessed but did not report overall repossession rates.\225\ In 2012, its firm-wide gross charge-offs equaled 30 percent of its average outstanding title loan balances.\226\ The Bureau is aware of vehicle title lenders engaging in illegal debt collection activities in order to collect amounts claimed to be due under title loan agreements. These practices include altering caller ID information on outgoing calls to borrowers to make it appear that calls were from other businesses, falsely threatening to refer borrowers for criminal investigation or prosecution, and unlawfully disclosing debt information to borrowers' employers, friends, and family.\227\ In

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    addition, approximately 16 percent of consumer complaints handled by the Bureau about vehicle title loans involved consumers reporting concerns about repossession issues.\228\

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    \224\ See also Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 13-14 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en.

    \225\ Missouri sales of repossessed vehicles calculated from data linked to St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Walter Moskop, ``Title Max is Thriving in Missouri--and Repossessing Thousands of Cars in the Process,'' St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 21, 2015, available at http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/titlemax-is-thriving-in-missouri-and-repossessing-thousands-of-cars/article_d8ea72b3-f687-5be4-8172-9d537ac94123.html.

    \226\ Bureau estimates based on publicly available financial statements by TMX Fin. LLC, 2012 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 22, 43.

    \227\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Orders Relief for Illegal Debt Collection Tactics,'' (Oct. 1, 2015), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-orders-indirect-auto-finance-company-to-provide-consumers-44-1-million-in-relief-for-illegal-debt-collection-tactics/. In September 2016, the CFPB took action against TMX Finance, alleging that employees made in-person visits to borrowers' references and places of employment, and disclosed the existence of borrowers' past due debts to these third-parties. Consent Order, TMX Finance LLC, CFPB No. 2016-CFPB-0022, (Sept. 26, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/1011/092016_cfpb_TitleMaxConsentOrder.pdf.

    \228\ This represents complaints received between November 2013 and December 2016.

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    Some vehicle title lenders have installed electronic devices on the vehicles, known as starter interrupt devices, automated collection technology, or more colloquially as ``kill switches,'' that can be programmed to transmit audible sounds in the vehicle before or at the payment due date. The devices may also be programmed to prevent the vehicle from starting when the borrower is in default on the loan, although they may allow a one-time re-start upon the borrower's call to obtain a code.\229\ One of the starter interrupt providers states that ``assuming proper installation, the device will not shut off the vehicle while driving.'' \230\ Due to concerns about consumer harm, a State Attorney General issued a consumer alert about the use of starter interrupt devices specific to vehicle title loans.\231\ The alert also noted that some title lenders require consumers to provide an extra key to their vehicles. In an attempt to avoid illegal repossessions, Wisconsin's vehicle title law prohibits lenders from requiring borrowers to provide the lender with an extra key to the vehicle.\232\ The Bureau has received several complaints about starter interrupt devices.

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    \229\ See, e.g., Eric L. Johnson & Corinne Kirkendall, ``Starter Interrupt and GPS Devices: Best Practices,'' PassTime InTouch, Jan. 14, 2016, available at https://passtimegps.com/starter-interrupt-and-gps-devices-best-practices/. These products may be used in conjunction with GPS devices and are also marketed for subprime automobile financing and insurance.

    \230\ Eric L. Johnson & Corinne Kirkendall, ``Starter Interrupt and GPS Devices: Best Practices,'' PassTime InTouch, Jan. 14, 2016, available at https://passtimegps.com/starter-interrupt-and-gps-devices-best-practices/.

    \231\ The alert also noted that vehicle title loans are illegal in Michigan. Bill Schuette, Mich. Att'y Gen., ``Consumer Alert: Auto Title Loans,'' available at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_20942-371738-,00.html.

    \232\ Wis. Stat. sec. 138.16(4)(b).

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    Business model. As noted above, short-term vehicle title lenders appear to have overhead costs relatively similar to those of storefront payday lenders. Default rates on vehicle title loans and lender reliance on re-borrowing activity appear to be even greater than that of storefront payday lenders.

    Based on data analyzed by the Bureau, the default rate on single-

    payment vehicle title loans is six percent and the sequence-level default rate is 33 percent, compared with a 20 percent sequence-level default rate for storefront payday loans. One-in-five single-payment vehicle title loan borrowers have their vehicle repossessed by the lender.\233\ One industry trade association commenter stated that 15 to 25 percent of repossessed vehicles are subsequently redeemed by borrowers after paying off the deficiency balance owed (along with repossession costs).

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    \233\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 23; CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 112.

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    Similarly, the rate of vehicle title re-borrowing appears high. In the Bureau's data analysis, more than half--56 percent--of single-

    payment vehicle title loan sequences stretched for at least four loans; over a third--36 percent--were seven or more loans; and 23 percent of loan sequences consisted of 10 or more loans. While other sources on vehicle title lending are more limited than for payday lending, the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions publishes a biennial report on vehicle title lending. Like the single-payment vehicle title loans the Bureau has analyzed, the vehicle title loans in Tennessee are 30-day single-payment loans. The most recent report shows similar patterns to those the Bureau found in its research, with a substantial number of consumers rolling over their loans multiple times. According to the report, of the total number of loan agreements made in 2014, about 15 percent were paid in full after 30 days without rolling over. Of those loans that are rolled over, about 65 percent were at least in their fourth rollover, about 44 percent were at least in their seventh rollover, and about 29 percent were at least in their tenth, up to a maximum of 22 rollovers.\234\

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    \234\ Letter from Greg Gonzales, Comm'r,Tennessee Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Hon. Bill Haslam, Governor and Hon. Members of the 109th General Assembly, at 8 (Apr. 12, 2016) (Report on the Title Pledge Industry), available at http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/tdfi/attachments/Title_Pledge_Report_2016_Final_Draft_Apr_6_2016.pdf. See Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-17-112(q).

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    The impact of these outcomes for consumers who are unable to repay and either default or re-borrow is discussed in Market Concerns--

    Underwriting.

    Short-Term Lending by Depository Institutions

    As noted above, within the banking system, consumers with liquidity needs rely primarily on credit cards and overdraft services. Some depository institutions, particularly community banks and credit unions, provide occasional small loans on an accommodation basis to their customers.\235\ The Bureau's market monitoring indicates that a number of the banks and credit unions offering these accommodation loans are located in small towns and rural areas and that it is not uncommon for borrowers to be in non-traditional employment or have seasonal or variable income. In addition, some depository institutions have experimented with short-term payday-like products or partnered with payday lenders, but such experiments have had mixed results and in several cases have prompted prudential regulators to take action discouraging certain types of activity. For a period of time, a handful of banks also offered a deposit advance product as discussed below; that product also prompted prudential regulators to issue guidance that effectively discouraged the offering of the product.

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    \235\ A trade association representing community banks conducted a survey of its members and found 39 percent of respondents offered short-term personal loans of $1,000 (term of 45 day or less). However, among respondents, personal loan portfolios (including longer-term loans, open-end lines of credit, and deposit advance loans) accounted for less than 3 percent of the dollar volume of their total lending portfolios. Further, the survey noted that these loans are not actively advertised to consumers. Ryan Hadley, ``2015 ICBA Community Bank Personal Small Dollar Loan Survey,'' at 4 (Oct. 29, 2015) (on file).

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    National banks, most State-chartered banks, and State credit unions are permitted under existing Federal laws to charge interest on loans at the highest rate allowed by the laws of the State in which the lender is located (lender's home State).\236\ The bank or State-

    chartered credit union may then charge the interest rate of its home State on loans it makes to borrowers in other States without needing to comply with the usury limits of the States in which it makes the loans (borrower's home State). Federal credit unions generally must not charge more than an 18 percent interest rate. However, the National Credit Union Administration

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    (NCUA) has taken some steps to encourage federally chartered credit unions to offer ``payday alternative loans,'' which generally have a longer term than traditional payday products. Federal credit unions are authorized to make these small-dollar loans at rates up to 28 percent interest plus an application fee. This program is discussed in more detail below.

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    \236\ See generally 12 U.S.C. 85 (governing national banks); 12 U.S.C. 1463(g) (governing savings associations); 12 U.S.C. 1785(g) (governing credit unions); 12 U.S.C. 1831d (governing State banks). Alternatively, these lenders may charge a rate that is no more than 1 percent above the 90-day commercial paper rate in effect at the Federal Reserve Bank in the Federal Reserve district in which the lender is located (whichever is higher). Id.

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    Agreements between depository institutions and payday lenders. In 2000, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued an advisory letter alerting national banks that the OCC had significant safety and soundness, compliance, and consumer protection concerns with banks entering into contractual arrangements with vendors seeking to avoid certain State lending and consumer protection laws. The OCC noted it had learned of nonbank vendors approaching federally chartered banks urging them to enter into agreements to fund payday and title loans. The OCC also expressed concern about unlimited renewals (what the Bureau refers to as rollovers or re-borrowing), and multiple renewals without principal reduction.\237\ The agency subsequently took enforcement actions against two national banks for activities relating to payday lending partnerships.\238\

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    \237\ Advisory Letter: AL 2000-10 to Chief Executive Officers of All Nat'l Banks, Dep't and Div. Heads, and All Examing Personnel from OCC (Nov. 27, 2000) (Payday Lending), available at http://www.occ.gov/static/news-issuances/memos-advisory-letters/2000/advisory-letter-2000-10.pdf.

    \238\ See OCC consent orders involving Peoples National Bank and First National Bank in Brookings. Press Release, OCC Admin of Nat'l Banks, NR 2003-06, ``Peoples National Bank to Pay $175,000 Civil Money Penalty And End Payday Lending Relationship with Advance America'' (Jan. 31, 2003), available at http://www.occ.gov/static/news-issuances/news-releases/2003/nr-occ-2003-6.pdf; Consent Order, First National Bank in Brookings, OCC No. 2003-1 (Jan. 17, 2003), available at http://www.occ.gov/static/enforcement-actions/ea2003-1.pdf. In December 2016, the OCC released a plan to offer limited special purpose bank charters to fintech companies. In response to criticism that such a charter might enable payday lenders to circumvent some States' attempts to ban payday lending, the OCC stated it had virtually eliminated abusive payday lending in the federal banking system in the early 2000s, and had ``no intention of allowing these practices to return.'' Lalita Clozel, ``OCC Fintech Charter Opens `henhouse' to Payday Lenders: Consumer Groups,'' American Banker, Jan. 13, 2016, available at https://www.americanbanker.com/news/occ-fintech-charter-opens-hen-house-to-payday-lenders-consumer-groups. See ``Comptroller's Licensing Manual Draft Supplement: OCC, Evaluating Charter Application From Financial Technology Companies,'' (Mar. 2017), available at https://www.occ.gov/publications/publications-by-type/licensing-manuals/file-pub-lm-fintech-licensing-manual-supplement.pdf.

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    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has also expressed concerns with similar agreements between payday lenders and the depositories under its purview. In 2003, the FDIC issued Guidelines for Payday Lending applicable to State-chartered FDIC-insured banks and savings associations; the guidelines were revised in 2005 and most recently in 2015. The guidelines focus on third-party relationships between the chartered institutions and other parties, and specifically address rollover limitations. They also indicate that banks should ensure borrowers exhibit both a willingness and ability to repay when rolling over a loan. Among other things, the guidelines indicate that institutions should: (1) Ensure that payday loans are not provided to customers who had payday loans outstanding at any lender for a total of three months during the previous 12 months; (2) establish appropriate cooling-off periods between loans; and (3) provide that no more than one payday loan is outstanding with the bank at a time to any one borrower.\239\ In 2007, the FDIC issued guidelines encouraging banks to offer affordable small-dollar loan alternatives with APRs of 36 percent or less, reasonable and limited fees, amortizing payments, underwriting focused on a borrower's ability to repay but allowing flexible documentation, and to avoid excessive renewals.\240\

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    \239\ FDIC, ``Financial Institution Letters: Guidelines for Payday Lending,'' (Revised Nov. 2015), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2005/fil1405a.html.

    \240\ FDIC, ``Financial Institution Letters: Affordable Small-

    Dollar Loan Products Final Guidelines,'' FIL 50-2007 (June 19, 2007), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2007/fil07050.html.

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    Deposit advance product lending. As the payday lending industry grew, a handful of banks decided to offer their deposit customers a similar product termed a deposit advance product (DAP). While one bank started offering deposit advances in the mid-1990s, the product began to spread more rapidly in the late 2000s and early 2010s. DAP could be structured a number of ways but generally involved a line of credit offered by depository institutions as a feature of an existing consumer deposit account with repayment automatically deducted from the consumer's next qualifying deposit. Deposit advance products were available to consumers who received recurring electronic deposits if they had an account in good standing and, for some banks, several months of account tenure, such as six months. When an advance was requested, funds were deposited into the consumer's account. Advances were automatically repaid when the next qualifying electronic deposit, whether recurring or one-time, was made to the consumer's account rather than on a fixed repayment date. If an outstanding advance was not fully repaid by an incoming electronic deposit within about 35 days, the consumer's account was debited for the amount due and could result in a negative balance on the account.

    The Bureau estimates that at the product's peak from mid-2013 to mid-2014, banks originated roughly $6.5 billion of advances, which represents about 22 percent of the volume of storefront payday loans issued in 2013. The Bureau estimates that at least 1.5 million unique borrowers took out one or more DAP loans during that same period.\241\

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    \241\ CFPB staff analysis based on confidential information gathered in the course of statutory functions. Estimates made by summing aggregated data across a number of DAP-issuing institutions. See John Hecht, ``Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework,'' at 7 (2014) (Stephens, Inc., slide presentation) (on file) (for payday industry size).

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    DAP fees, like payday loan fees, did not vary with the amount of time that the advance was outstanding but rather were set as dollars per amount advanced. A typical fee was $2 per $20 borrowed, the equivalent of $10 per $100. Research undertaken by the Bureau using a supervisory dataset found that the median duration of an episode of DAP usage was 12 days, yielding an effective APR of 304 percent.\242\

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    \242\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 27-28.

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    The Bureau further found that while the median draw on a DAP was $180, users typically took more than one draw before the advance was repaid. The multiple draws resulted in a median average daily DAP balance of $343, which is similar to the size of a typical payday loan. With the typical DAP fee of $2 per $20 advanced, the fees for $343 in advances equate to about $34.30. The median DAP user was indebted for 112 days over the course of a year and took advances in seven months. Fourteen percent of borrowers took advances totaling over $9,000 over the course of the year; these borrowers had a median number of days in debt of 254.\243\

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    \243\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 33 fig. 11, 37 fig. 14.

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    In 2010, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) issued a supervisory directive ordering one bank to terminate its DAP program, which the bank offered in connection with prepaid accounts, after determining the bank engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or

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    practices and violated the OTS' Advertising Regulation.\244\ Consequently, in 2011, pursuant to a cease and desist order, the bank agreed to remunerate its DAP consumers nearly $5 million and pay a civil monetary penalty of $400,000.\245\

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    \244\ Meta Fin. Grp., Inc., 2010 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 59 (Dec. 13, 2010).

    \245\ Meta Fin. Grp., Inc., Quarter Report (Form 10-Q) at 31 (Aug. 5, 2011). The OTS was merged with the OCC effective July 21, 2011. See OCC, ``OTS Integration,'' http://www.occ.treas.gov/about/who-we-are/occ-for-you/bankers/ots-integration.html (last visited Apr. 27, 2016).

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    In November 2013, the FDIC and OCC issued final supervisory guidance on DAP.\246\ This guidance stated that banks offering DAP should adjust their programs in a number of ways, including applying more scrutiny in underwriting DAP loans and discouraging repetitive borrowing. Specifically, the OCC and FDIC stated that banks should ensure that the customer relationship is of sufficient duration to provide the bank with adequate information regarding the customer's recurring deposits and expenses, and that the agencies would consider sufficient duration to be no less than six months. In addition, the guidance said that banks should conduct a more stringent financial capacity assessment of a consumer's ability to repay the DAP advance according to its terms without repeated re-borrowing, while meeting typical recurring and other necessary expenses, as well as outstanding debt obligations. In particular, the guidance stated that banks should analyze a consumer's account for recurring inflows and outflows at the end, at least, of each of the preceding six months before determining the appropriateness of a DAP advance. Additionally, the guidance noted that in order to avoid re-borrowing, a cooling-off period of at least one monthly statement cycle after the repayment of a DAP advance should be completed before another advance could be extended. Finally, the guidance stated that banks should not increase DAP limits automatically and without a fully underwritten reassessment of a consumer's ability to repay, and banks should reevaluate a consumer's eligibility and capacity for DAP at least every six months.\247\

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    \246\ Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70624 (Nov. 26, 2013); Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70552 (Nov. 26, 2013).

    \247\ Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70624 (Nov. 26, 2013); Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70552 (Nov. 26, 2013).

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    Following the issuance of the FDIC and OCC guidance, banks supervised by the FDIC and OCC ceased offering DAP. Of two DAP-issuing banks supervised by the Federal Reserve Board and therefore not subject to either the FDIC or OCC guidance, one eliminated its DAP program while another continues to offer a modified version of DAP to its existing DAP borrowers.\248\ Today, with the exception of some short-

    term lending within the NCUA's Payday Alternative Loan (PAL) program, described in detail below, relatively few banks or credit unions offer large-scale formal loan programs of this type.

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    \248\ The Federal Reserve Board issued a statement to its member banks on DAP. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., ``Statement on Deposit Advance Products,'' (Apr. 25, 2013), available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/supervisionreg/caletters/CA13-07attachment.pdf.

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    Federal credit union payday alternative loans. As noted above, Federal credit unions may not charge more than 18 percent interest. However, in 2010, the NCUA adopted an exception to the interest rate limit under the Federal Credit Union Act that permitted Federal credit unions to make PALs at an interest rate of up to 28 percent plus an application fee, ``that reflects the actual costs associated with processing the application'' up to $20.\249\ PALs may be made in amounts of $200 to $1,000 to borrowers who have been members of the credit union for at least one month. PAL terms range from one to six months, PALs may not be rolled over, and borrowers are limited to one PAL at a time and no more than three PALs from the same credit union in a rolling six-month period. PALs must fully amortize and the credit union must establish underwriting guidelines such as verifying borrowers' employment from at least two recent pay stubs.\250\

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    \249\ 12 CFR 701.21(c)(7)(iii). Application fees charged to all applicants for credit are not part of the finance charge that must be disclosed under Regulation Z. See 12 CFR 1026.4(c).

    \250\ 12 CFR 701.21(c)(7)(iii).

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    In 2016, about 650 Federal credit unions (nearly 20 percent of all Federal credit unions) offered PALs, with originations at $134.7 million, representing a 9.7 percent increase from 2015.\251\ In 2015, the average PAL amount was about $700 and carried a median interest rate of 25 percent; in 2016, the average PAL loan amount increased to about $720 with a similar median interest rate of 25 percent.\252\

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    \251\ Nat'l Credit Union Admin., ``5300 Call Report Aggregate Financial Performance Reports (FPRs),'' (Dec. 2016), available at https://www.ncua.gov/analysis/Pages/call-report-data/aggregate-financial-performance-reports.aspx.

    \252\ Bureau staff estimates are based on NCUA Call Report data. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., ``Credit Union and Corporate Call Report Data,'' available at https://www.ncua.gov/analysis/Pages/call-report-data.aspx.

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  8. Longer-Term, High-Cost Loans

    In addition to short-term loans, certain longer-term, high-cost loans will be covered by the payments protections provisions of this rule. These are longer-term, high-cost loans with a leveraged payment mechanism, as described in more detail in part II.D and Markets Concerns--Payments. The category of longer-term high-cost loans most directly impacted by the payments protections in this rule are payday installment loans.

    Payday Installment Loans

    Product definition and regulatory environment. The term ``payday installment loan'' refers to a high-cost loan repaid in multiple installments, with each installment typically due at the consumer's payday and with the lender generally having the ability to collect the payment from the consumer's bank account as money is deposited or directly from the consumer's paycheck.\253\

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    \253\ Lenders described in part II.C as payday installment lenders may not use this terminology.

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    Two States, Colorado and Illinois, have authorized payday installment loans.\254\ Through 2010 amendments to its payday loan law, Colorado no longer permits short-term single-payment payday loans. Instead, in order to charge fees in excess of the 36 percent APR cap for most other consumer loans, the minimum loan term must be six months and lenders are permitted to take a series of post-dated checks or payment authorizations to cover each payment under the loan, providing lenders with the same access to borrower's accounts as a single-payment payday loan.\255\ In Illinois, lenders have been permitted to make payday installment loans since 2011. These loans must be fully-

    amortizing for terms of 112 to 180 days and the loan amounts are limited to the

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    lesser of $1,000 or 22.5 percent of gross monthly income.\256\

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    \254\ As noted above, as of January 1, 2018, New Mexico payday loans (and vehicle title loans) must be payable in four substantially equal payments over at least 120 days with an APR of 175 percent or less.

    \255\ Colo. Rev. Stat. sec. 5-3.1-103. Although loans may be structured in multiple installments of substantially equal payments or a single installment, almost all lenders contract for repayment in monthly or bi-weekly installments. 4 Colo. Code Regs. sec. 902-1, Rule 17(B); Adm'r of the Colo. Consumer Credit Unit, ``Colorado Payday Lending--July Demographic and Statistical Information: July 2000 through December 2012,'' at 15-16, available at https://coag.gov/uccc/info/ar.

    \256\ 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. sec. 122/2-5.

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    A number of other States have adopted usury laws that some payday lenders use to offer payday installment loans in lieu of, or in addition to, more traditional payday loans. Since July 2016, Mississippi lenders can make ``credit availability loans''--closed-end fully-amortizing installment loans with loan terms of four to 12 months, whether secured by personal property or unsecured.\257\ The maximum loan amount on a credit availability loan is limited to $2,500, and lenders may charge a monthly handling fee of up to 25 percent of the outstanding principal balance plus an origination fee of the greater of 1 percent of the amount disbursed or $5.\258\

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    \257\ Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-603(e) (2017).

    \258\ Miss. Code Ann. sec. 75-67-619 (2017)

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    As of 2015, Tennessee lenders may offer ``flex loans''--open-end lines of credit that need not have a fixed maturity date and that may be secured by personal property or unsecured.\259\ The maximum outstanding balance on a flex loan may not exceed $4,000, with an interest rate of up to 24 percent per annum and ``customary fees'' for underwriting and other purposes not to exceed a daily rate of 0.7 percent of the average daily principal balance.\260\ At least one lender offering flex loans states that loan payments are ``aligned with your payday.'' \261\ Similar legislation has been unsuccessful in other States. For example, in May 2017 the Governor of Oklahoma vetoed legislation that would have authorized high-cost installment loans with interest rates of up to 17 percent per month, or 204 percent APR.\262\

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    \259\ Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-12-102(6) (2017).

    \260\ Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 45-12-111(2017).

    \261\ Advance Financial Flex Loan, ``Online Tennessee Flex Loans,'' https://www.af247.com/tennessee-flex-loans last visited May 17, 2017).

    \262\ Okla. H.B. 1913, 56th Leg., 1st Sess. (Okla. 2017). http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB1913&Session=1700.

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    None of these laws authorizing payday installment loans, credit access loans, or flex loans appear to limit the use of electronic repayment or ACH options for repayment.

    In addition to States that authorize a specific form of payday installment loan, credit access loan, or flex loan, several other States provide room within their usury laws for high-cost installment products. A recent report found that seven States have no rate or fee limits for closed-end loans of $500 and that 10 States have no rate or fee limits for closed-end loans of $2,000.\263\ The same report noted that for open-end credit, 13 States do not limit rates for a $500 advance and 15 States do not limit them for a $2,000 advance.\264\ Another recent study of the Web sites of five payday lenders that operate both online and at storefront locations found that these five lenders offered payday installment loans in at least 17 States.\265\

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    \263\ Nat'l. Consumer Law Ctr., ``Predatory Installment Lending in 2017, States Battle to Restrain High-Cost Loans,'' at 14 map 1, 15 map 2 (Aug. 2017), available athttps://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/pr-reports/installment-loans/report-installment-loans.pdf. Roughly half of the States with no set limits do prohibit unconscionable interest rates. As of January 1, 2008, New Mexico's status will change from a State with no rate caps for loans of $500 or $2,000 to a State that caps rates at 175 percent APR.

    \264\ Nat'l. Consumer Law Ctr., ``Predatory Installment Lending in 2017, States Battle to Restrain High-Cost Loans,'' at 18 map 3, 19 map 4 (Aug. 2017), available at https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/pr-reports/installment-loans/report-installment-loans.pdf.

    \265\ Diane Standaert, ``Payday and Car Title Lenders' Migration to Unsafe Installment Loans,'' at 7 tbl.1 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2015), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/crl_brief_cartitle_lenders_migrate_to_installmentloans.pdf. CRL surveyed the Web sites for: Cash America, Enova International (d/b/a CashNetUSA and d/b/a NetCredit), Axcess Financial (d/b/a Check `N Go), and ACE Cash Express. Id. at 10 n.52.

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    In addition, as discussed above, a substantial segment of the online payday industry operates outside of the constraints of State law, and this segment, too, has migrated towards payday installment loans. For example, a study commissioned by a trade association for online lenders surveyed seven lenders and concluded that, while single-

    payment loans are still a significant portion of these lenders' volume, they are on the decline while installment loans are growing. Several of the lenders represented in the report had either eliminated single-

    payment products or were migrating to installment products while still offering single-payment loans.\266\ For the practical reasons associated with having no retail locations, online lenders prefer repayment by electronic methods and use various approaches to secure consumers' authorization for payments electronically through ACH debits.

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    \266\ G. Michael Flores, ``The State of Online Short-Term Lending, Second Annual Statistical Analysis Report,'' Bretton-Woods, Inc., at 3 (Feb. 28, 2014), available at http://onlinelendersalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015-Bretton-Woods-Online-Lending-Study-FINAL.pdf. The report does not address the State licensing status of the study participants but based on its market outreach activities, the Bureau believes that some of the loans included in the study were not made subject to the licensing laws of the borrowers' States of residence. See also nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small Dollar Lending--Basic Demographics and Loan Characteristics,'' at 9, 11, (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Clarity-Services-Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending.pdf.

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    As with payday loans, and as noted above, as authorized or permitted by some State laws, payday installment lenders often hold borrowers' checks or obtain their authorization for ACH repayment. Some borrowers may prefer ACH repayment methods for convenience. The Bureau is aware of certain practices used by payday installment lenders to secure repayment through consumers' accounts including longer waits for distribution of loan proceeds and higher fees for non-electronic payment methods, described above in the Online Payday Loans section, and discussed in more detail in part II.D and Markets Concerns--

    Payments. To the extent that longer-term payday installment loans meet the cost of credit threshold and include leveraged payment mechanisms, they are subject to this rule's payments protections.\267\

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    \267\ Installment vehicle title loans are title loans that are contracted to be repaid in multiple installments rather than in a single payment. Vehicle title lending almost exclusively occurs at retail storefront locations and consequently, borrowers often repay both in cash at the lender's location. However, some installment vehicle title lenders allow repayment by ACH from the borrower's account or by debit card, a practice common to payday installment loans. See, e.g., Auto Loan Store, ``Auto Title Loan FAQ,'' https://www.autotitlelending.com/faq/ (last visited June 20, 2017); TFC Title Loans, ``How Are Title Loans Paid Back?,'' TFC Title Loans Blog, https://www.tfctitleloans.com/blog/how-are-title-loans-paid-back/ (last visited Sept. 17, 2017); Presto Title Loans, ``You Can Make Payments Online!,'' http://prestoautoloans.com/pay-online/!/ (last visited June 20, 2017). To the extent that longer-term installment vehicle title loans meet the cost of credit threshold and the lender obtains a leveraged payment mechanism, the loans are subject to this rule's protections for payment presentments.

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    Finance Company Installment Loans

    Product definition and regulatory environment. Before the advent of single-payment payday loans or online lending, and before widespread availability of credit cards, ``personal loans'' or ``personal installment loans'' were offered by storefront nonbank installment lenders, often referred to as ``finance companies.'' Personal loans are typically unsecured loans used for any variety of purposes and distinguished from loans where the lender generally requires the funds be used for a specific intended purpose, such as automobile purchase loans, student loans, and mortgage loans. As discussed below, these finance companies (and their newer online counterparts) have a different business model than payday installment lenders. Some of these finance companies limit the APRs on their loans to 36 percent or less,

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    whether required by State law or as a matter of company policy. However, there are other finance companies and installment lenders that offer loans that fall within the rule's definition of ``covered longer-

    term loan,'' as they carry a cost of credit that exceeds 36 percent APR and include repayment through a leveraged payment mechanism--access to the borrower's account.

    According to a report from a consulting firm using data derived from a nationwide consumer reporting agency, in 2016 finance companies originated 8.6 million personal loans (unsecured installment loans) totaling $41.7 billion in originations; approximately 6.9 million of these loans worth $25.8 billion, with an average loan size of about $3,727, were made to nonprime consumers (categorized as near prime, subprime, and deep subprime, with VantageScores of 660 and below).\268\

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    \268\ Experian-Oliver Wyman, ``2016 Q4 Market Intelligence Report: Personal Loans Report,'' at 11-13 figs. 9, 10, 12 & 13 (2017), available at http://www.marketintelligencereports.com; Experian-Oliver Wyman, ``2016 Q3 Market Intelligence Report: Personal Loans Report,'' at 11-13 figs. 9, 10, 12 & 13 (2016), available at http://www.marketintelligencereports.com; Experian-

    Oliver Wyman, ``2016 Q2 Market Intelligence Report: Personal Loans Report,'' at 11-13 figs. 9, 10, 12 & 13 (2016), available at http://www.marketintelligencereports.com; Experian-Oliver Wyman, ``2016 Q1 Market Intelligence Report: Personal Loans Report,'' at 11-13, figs. 9, 10, 12 & 13 (2016), available at http://www.marketintelligencereports.com. These finance company personal loans are not segmented by cost and likely include some loans with a cost of credit of 36 percent APR or less that would not be covered by the Bureau's rule.

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    APRs at storefront locations in States that do not cap rates on installment loans can be 50 to 90 percent for subprime and deep subprime borrowers; APRs in States with rate caps are 24 to 36 percent APR for near prime and subprime borrowers.\269\ A survey of finance companies conducted in conjunction with a national trade association reported that 80 percent of loans were for $2,000 or less and 85 percent of loans had durations of 24 months or less (60 percent of loans had durations of one year or less).\270\ The survey did not report an average loan amount. Almost half of the loans had APRs between 49 and 99 percent; 9 percent of loans of $501 or less had APRs between 100 and 199 percent, but there was substantial rate variation among States.\271\ Except for loans subject to the Military Loan Act described above, APR calculations under Regulation Z include origination fees, but lenders generally are not required to include within the APR costs such as application fees and add-on services such as optional credit insurance and guaranteed automobile protection.\272\ A wider range and number of such up-front fees and add-on products and services appear to be charged by the storefront lenders than by their newer online counterparts.

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    \269\ See John Hecht, ``Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework,'' at 11 (2014) (Stephens, Inc., slide presentation) (on file) (for listing of typical rates and credit scores for licensed installment lenders).

    \270\ Thomas A. Durkin et al., ``Findings from the AFSA Member Survey of Installment Lending,'' at 24 tbl. 3 (2014), available at http://www.masonlec.org/site/rte_uploads;/files;/Manne;/

    11.21.14%20;JLEP%20Consumer%20Credit%20;and%20the;%20American%20Econo

    my;/

    Findings%20;from%20the;%20AFSA%20Member;%20Survey;%20of%20Installment

    ;%20Lending.pdf. It appears that lenders made loans in at least 27 States, but the majority of loans were from 10 States. Id. at 28 tbl. 9.

    \271\ Thomas A. Durkin et al., ``Findings from the AFSA Member Survey of Installment Lending,'' at 24 tbl. 3 (2014), available at http://www.masonlec.org/site/rte_uploads/files/Manne/11.21.14%20JLEP%20Consumer%20Credit%20and%20the%20American%20Economy/Findings%20from%20the%20AFSA%20Member%20Survey%20of%20Installment%20Lending.pdf. It appears that lenders made loans in at least 27 States, but the majority of loans were from 10 States. Id. at 28 tbl. 9 & n.1.

    \272\ 12 CFR 1026.4(a) through (d).

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    Finance companies typically engage in underwriting that includes a monthly net income and expense budget, a review of the consumer's credit report, and an assessment of monthly cash flow.\273\ One trade association representing traditional finance companies has described the underwriting process as evaluating the borrower's ``stability, ability, and willingness'' to repay the loan.\274\ Many finance companies report loan payment history to one or more of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies,\275\ and the Bureau believes from market outreach that these lenders generally furnish payment information on a monthly basis.

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    \273\ See American Fin. Servs. Ass'n, ``Traditional Installment Loans, Still the Safest and Most Affordable Small Dollar Credit,'' available at https://www.afsaonline.org/Portals/0/Federal/White%20Papers/Small%20Dollar%20Credit%20TP.pdf; Sun Loan Company, ``Loan FAQs,'' http://www.sunloan.com/faq/ (last visited Sept. 23, 2017) (``Yes, we do check your credit report when you complete an application for a Sun Loan Company, but we do not base our approval on your score. Your ability, stability and willingness to repay the loan are the most important things we check when making a decision.'').

    \274\ Nat'l Installment Lenders Ass'n, ``Best Practices,'' http://nilaonline.org/best-practices/ (last visited Apr. 29, 2016).

    \275\ American Fin. Servs. Ass'n, ``Traditional Installment Loans, Still the Safest and Most Affordable Small Dollar Credit,'' available at https://www.afsaonline.org/Portals/0/Federal/White%20Papers/Small%20Dollar%20Credit%20TP.pdf.

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    With regard to newer online counterparts, the Bureau is aware from its market monitoring activities that some online installment lenders in this market offer products that resemble the types of loans made by finance companies. Many of these online installment lenders engage in highly-automated underwriting that involves substantial use of analytics and technology. The APRs on the loans are over 36 percent and can reach the triple digits.\276\

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    \276\ APRs on Elevate's Rise loans can reach 299 percent, APRs on LendUp's loans can reach about 256 percent, and APRs on Enova's loans originated through its NetCredit platform can reach 179 percent. Rise, ``What it Costs,'' https://www.risecredit.com/how-online-loans-work#WhatItCosts (last visited Sept. 17, 2017); LendUp, ``Rates & Notices,'' https://www.lendup.com/rates-and-notices (last visited Sept. 17, 2017); Enova, ``Investor Presentation,'' at 7 (May 8, 2017), available at http://ir.enova.com/download/Enova+Investor+Presentation+v5+%28as+of+May+5+2017%29.pdf.

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    Finance companies and online installment lenders offer various methods for consumers to repay their loans. Particularly for online loans, repayment through ACH is common.\277\ Some online installment lenders also allow other repayment methods, such as check, debit or credit card, MoneyGram, or Western Union, but may require advance notice for some of these payment methods.\278\ From its market monitoring functions, the Bureau is aware that finance companies with storefront locations tend to offer a wider array of repayment options. Some finance companies will accept ACH payments in person, set up either during the loan closing process or at a later date, or by phone.\279\ Finance companies also traditionally take payments in-

    store, generally by cash or check, or by mail. Some finance companies charge consumers a fee to use certain payment methods.\280\

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    \277\ See, e.g., Elevate, 2017 S-1, at 22; Rise, ``Frequently Asked Questions About Rise Loans,'' https://www.risecredit.com/frequently-asked-questions (last visited Sept. 23, 2017); Enova, 2016 Annual Report (10-K), at 25.

    \278\ See, e.g., NetCredit, ``Frequently Asked Questions: How Can I Repay My Personal Loan,'' https://www.netcredit.com/faq (last visited Sept. 17, 2017); Rise, ``Frequently Asked Questions About Rise Loans,'' https://www.risecredit.com/frequently-asked-questions (last visited Sept. 17, 2017).

    \279\ See Republic Finance, ``Payments,'' http://republicfinance.com/payment (last visited Sept. 17, 2017).

    \280\ See One lender's Web site notes (``Republic Finance has arrangements with a payment processor, PaymentVision, to accept payments from our customers either by phone or online as further described below. By using this service, you contract directly with the payment processor, PaymentVision. If permitted by State law, the payment processor charges a fee for their service. Republic Finance does not receive any portion of that fee.''). Republic Finance, ``Payments by Phone (Interactive Voice Response) or Online Payments through Payment Processor,'' http://republicfinance.com/payment (last visited Sept. 17, 2017).

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    Page 54499

  9. Initiating Payment From Consumers' Accounts

    As discussed above, payday and payday installment lenders nearly universally obtain at origination one or more authorizations to initiate withdrawal of payment from the consumer's account. There are a variety of payment options or channels that they use to accomplish this goal, and lenders frequently obtain authorizations for multiple types. Different payment channels are subject to different laws and, in some cases, private network rules, leaving lenders with broad control over the parameters of how a particular payment will be pulled from a consumer's account, including the date, amount, and payment method.

    Obtaining Payment Authorization

    A variety of payment methods enable lenders to use a previously-

    obtained authorization to initiate a withdrawal from a consumer's account without further action from the consumer. These methods include paper signature checks, remotely created checks (RCCs) and remotely created payment orders (RCPOs),\281\ and electronic payments like ACH \282\ and debit and prepaid card transactions. Payday and payday installment lenders--both online and in storefronts--typically obtain a post-dated check or electronic payment authorization from consumers for repayments of loans.\283\ For storefront payday loans, lenders typically obtain a post-dated check (or, where payday installment products are authorized, a series of postdated checks) that they can use to initiate a check or ACH transaction from a consumer's account. For an online loan, a consumer often provides bank account information to receive the loan funds, and the lender often uses that bank account information to obtain payment from the consumer.\284\ This account information can be used to initiate an ACH payment from a consumer's account. Typically, online lenders require consumers to authorize payments from their account as part of their agreement to receive the loan proceeds electronically.\285\ Some traditional installment lenders also obtain an electronic payment authorization from their customers.

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    \281\ A RCC or RCPO is a type of check that is created by the payee--in this case, it would be created by the lender--and processed through the check clearing system. Given that the check is created by the lender, it does not bear the consumer's signature. See Regulation CC, 12 CFR 229.2(fff) (defining remotely created check); Telemarketing Sales Rule, 16 CFR 310.2(cc) (defining ``remotely created payment order'' as a payment instrument that includes remotely created checks).

    \282\ In order to initiate an ACH payment from a consumer's account, a lender must send a request (also known as an ``entry'') through an originating depository financial institution (ODFI). An ODFI is a bank or other financial institution with which the lender or the lender's payment processor has a relationship. ODFIs aggregate and submit batches of entries for all of their originators to an ACH operator. The ACH operators sort the ACH entries and send them to the receiving depository financial institutions (RDFI) that hold the individual consumer accounts. The RDFI then decides whether to debit the consumer's account or to send it back unpaid. ACH debit transactions generally clear and settle in one business day after the payment is initiated by the lender. The private operating rules for the ACH network are administered by the National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA), an industry trade organization.

    \283\ See, e.g., QC Holdings, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-

    K), at 6 (Mar. 12, 2015) (``Upon completion of a loan application, the customer signs a promissory note with a maturity of generally two to three weeks. The loan is collateralized by a check (for the principal amount of the loan plus a specified fee), ACH authorization or a debit card.''); Advance America, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K) at 45 (Mar. 15, 2012) (``After the required documents presented by the customer have been reviewed for completeness and accuracy, copied for record-keeping purposes, and the cash advance has been approved, the customer enters into an agreement governing the terms of the cash advance. The customer then provides a personal check or an Automated Clearing House (``ACH'') authorization, which enables electronic payment from the customer's account, to cover the amount of the cash advance and charges for applicable fees and interest of the balance due under the agreement.''); ENOVA Int'l, Inc., 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 6 (Mar. 20, 2015)) (``When a customer takes out a new loan, loan proceeds are promptly deposited in the customer's bank account or onto a debit card in exchange for a preauthorized debit for repayment of the loan from the customer's account.'').

    \284\ See, e.g., Great Plains Lending d/b/a Cash Advance Now ``Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),'' https://www.cashadvancenow.com/FAQ.aspx (last visited May 16, 2016) (``If we extend credit to a consumer, we will consider the bank account information provided by the consumer as eligible for us to process payments against. In addition, as part of our information collection process, we may detect additional bank accounts under the ownership of the consumer. We will consider these additional accounts to be part of the application process.'').

    \285\ See, e.g., Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Arbitration at exhibit 1, 38, 55, Labajo v. First Int'l Bank & Trust, No. 14-00627 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2014), ECF No. 26-3.

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    Payday and payday installment lenders often take authorization for multiple payment methods, such as taking a post-dated check along with the consumer's debit card information.\286\ Consumers usually provide the payment authorization as part of the loan origination process.\287\

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    \286\ See, e.g., Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim at exhibit A, Parm v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A., No. 13-03326 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 23, 2013), ECF No. 60-1 (``You may revoke this authorization by contacting us in writing at ach@castlepayday.com or by phone at 1-888-945-2727. You must contact us at least three (3) business days prior to when you wish the authorization to terminate. If you revoke your authorization, you authorize us to make your payments by remotely-

    created checks as set forth below.''); Declaration re: Motion to Compel Arbitration at exhibit 5, Booth v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A., No. 13-5968 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 13, 2013), ECF No. 41-8 (stating that in the event that the consumer terminates an ACH authorization, the lender would be authorized to initiated payment by remotely created check); Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Arbitration at exhibit A, Labajo v. First Int'l Bank & Trust, No. 14-00627 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2014), ECF No. 25-1 (taking ACH and remotely created check authorization).

    \287\ See, e.g., Advance America, 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-

    K), at 10 (``To obtain a cash advance, a customer typically . . . enters into an agreement governing the terms of the cash advance, including the customer's agreement to repay the amount advanced in full on or before a specified due date (usually the customer's next payday), and our agreement to defer the presentment or deposit of the customer's check or ACH authorization until the due date.'').

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    For storefront payday loans, providing a post-dated check is typically a requirement to obtain a loan. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) lenders cannot condition credit on obtaining an authorization from the consumer for ``preauthorized'' (recurring) electronic fund transfers,\288\ but in practice online payday and payday installment lenders are able to obtain such authorizations from consumers for almost all loans. The EFTA provision concerning compulsory use does not apply to paper checks and one-time electronic fund transfers. Moreover, even for loans subject to the EFTA compulsory use provision, lenders use various methods to obtain electronic authorizations. For example, although some payday and payday installment lenders provide consumers with alternative methods to repay loans, these options may be burdensome and may significantly change the terms of the loan. For example, one lender increases its APR by an additional 61 percent or 260 percent, depending on the length of the loan, if a consumer elects a cash-only payment option for its installment loan product, resulting in a total APR of 462 percent (210 day loan) to 780 percent (140 day loan).\289\ Other lenders change the origination process if consumers do not immediately provide account access. For example, some online payday lenders require prospective customers to contact them by phone if they do not want to provide a payment authorization and wish to

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    pay by money order or check at a later time. Other lenders delay the disbursement of the loan proceeds if the consumer does not immediately provide a payment authorization.\290\

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    \288\ EFTA and its implementing regulation, Regulation E, prohibit the conditioning of credit on an authorization for a preauthorized recurring electronic fund transfer. See 12 CFR 1005.10(e)(1) (``No financial institution or other person may condition an extension of credit to a consumer on the consumer's repayment by preauthorized electronic fund transfers, except for credit extended under an overdraft credit plan or extended to maintain a specified minimum balance in the consumer's account.'').

    \289\ Cash Store, ``Installment Loans: Fee Schedule Examples,'' https://www.cashstore.com/-/media/cashstore/files/pdfs/nm%20ins%20552014.pdf (last visited May 16, 2016).

    \290\ See, e.g., Mobiloans, ``Line of Credit Terms and Conditions,'' www.mobiloans.com/terms-and-conditions (last visited Feb. 5, 2016) (``If you do not authorize electronic payments from your Demand Deposit Account and instead elect to make payments by mail, you will receive your Mobiloans Cash by check in the mail.'').

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    Banks and credit unions have additional payment channel options when they lend to consumers who have a deposit account at the same institution. As a condition of certain types of loans, many financial institutions require consumers to have a deposit account at that same institution.\291\ The loan contract often authorizes the financial institution to pull payment directly from the consumer's account. Since these payments can be processed through an internal transfer within the bank or credit union, these institutions do not typically use external payment channels to complete an internal payment transfer.

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    \291\ See, e.g., Fifth Third Bank, ``Ways to Borrow Money for Your Unique Needs,'' https://www.53.com/content/fifth-third/en/personal-banking/borrowing-basics/personal-loans.html (last visited May 17, 2016), at 3 (last visited May 17, 2016), available at https://www.53.com/doc/pe/pe-eax-tc.pdf (providing eligibility requirements including that the consumer ``must have a Fifth Third Bank checking deposit account that has been open for the past 90 (ninety) days and is in good standing'').

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    Exercising Payment Authorizations

    For different types of loans that will be covered under the rule, lenders use their authorizations to collect payment differently. As discussed above, most storefront lenders encourage or require consumers to return to their stores to pay in cash, roll over, or otherwise renew their loans. The lender often will deposit a post-dated check or initiate an electronic fund transfer only where the lender considers the consumer to be in ``default'' under the contract or where the consumer has not responded to the lender's communications.\292\ Bureau examiners have cited one or more payday lenders for threatening to initiate payments from consumer accounts that were contrary to the agreement, and that the lenders did not intend to initiate.\293\

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    \292\ Payday and payday installment lenders may contact consumers a few days before the payment is due to remind them of their upcoming payment. This is a common practice, with many lenders calling the consumer 1 to 3 days before the payment is due, and some providing reminders through text or email.

    \293\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 20 (Spring 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201405_cfpb_supervisory-highlights-spring-2014.pdf.

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    In contrast, online lenders typically use the authorization to collect all payments, not just those initiated after there has been some indication of distress from the consumer. Moreover, as discussed above, online lenders offering ``hybrid'' payday loan products structure them so that the lender is authorized to collect a series of interest-only payments--the functional equivalent of paying finance charges to roll over the loan--before full payment or amortizing payments are due.\294\ The Bureau also is aware that some online lenders, although structuring their product as nominally a two-week loan, automatically roll over the loan every two weeks unless the consumer takes affirmative action to make full payment.\295\ The payments processed in such cases are for the cost of the rollover rather than the full balance due.

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    \294\ See, e.g., Notice of Charges Seeking Restitution, Digorgement, Other Equitable Relief, and Civil Money Penalties, In the Matter of: Integrity Advance, LLC, No. 2015-CFPB-0029, at 5 (Nov. 18, 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201511_cfpb_notice-of-charges-integrity-advance-llc-james-r-carnes.pdf (providing lender contract for loan beginning with four automatic interest-only rollover payments before converting to a series of amortizing payments).

    \295\ See, e.g., Motion to Compel Arbitration, Motion to Stay Litigation at exhibit A, Riley v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A., No. 13-1677 (D.D.C. Jan. 10, 2014), ECF No. 33-2 (interpreting silence from consumer before the payment due date as a request for a loan extension; contract was for a 14-day single-payment loan, loan amount financed was $700 for a total payment due of $875).

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    As a result of these distinctions, storefront and online lenders have different success rates in exercising such payment authorizations. Some large storefront lenders report that they initiate payment attempts in less than 10 percent of cases, and that 60 to 80 percent of those attempts are returned for non-sufficient funds.\296\ Bureau analysis of ACH payments by online payday and payday installment lenders, which typically collect all payments by initiating a transfer from consumers' accounts, indicates that for any given payment only about 6 percent fail on the first try. However, over an eighteen-month observation period, 50% of online borrowers were found to experience at least one payment attempt that failed or caused an overdraft and one-

    third of the borrowers experienced more than one such incident.

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    \296\ One major lender with a predominantly storefront loan portfolio, QC Holdings, notes that in 2014, 91.5 percent of its payday and installment loans were repaid or renewed in cash. QC Holdings 2014 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 7. For the remaining 8.5 percent of loans for which QC Holdings initiated a payment attempt, 78.5 percent were returned due to non-sufficient funds. Id. Advance America, which offers mostly storefront payday and installment loans, initiated check or ACH payments on approximately 6.7 and 6.5 percent, respectively, of its loans in 2011; approximately 63 and 64 percent, respectively, of those attempts failed. Advance America 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 27.

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    Lenders typically charge fees for these returned payments, sometimes charging both a returned payment fee and a late fee.\297\ These fees are in addition to fees, such as NSF fees, that may be charged by the financial institution that holds the consumer's account.

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    \297\ See Advance America 2011 Annual Report (Form 10-K), at 8 (``We may charge and collect fees for returned checks, late fees, and other fees as permitted by applicable law. Fees for returned checks or electronic debits that are declined for non-sufficient funds (``NSF'') vary by State and range up to $30, and late fees vary by State and range up to $50. For each of the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, total NSF fees collected were approximately $2.9 million and total late fees collected were approximately $1 million and $0.9 million, respectively.''); Mypaydayloan.com, ``Frequently Asked Questions,'' https://www.mypaydayloan.com/faq#loancost (last visited May 17, 2016) (``If your payment is returned due to NSF (or Account Frozen or Account Closed), our collections department will contact you to arrange a second attempt to debit the payment. A return item fee of $25 and a late fee of $50 will also be collected with the next debit.'').

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    The Bureau found that if an electronic payment attempt failed, online lenders try again three-quarters of the time. However, after an initial failure the lender's likelihood of failure jumps to 70 percent for the second attempt and 73 percent for the third. Of those that succeed, roughly one-third result in an overdraft.

    Both storefront and online lenders also frequently change the ways in which they attempt to exercise authorizations after one attempt has failed. For example, many typically make additional attempts to collect initial payment due.\298\ Some lenders attempt to collect the entire payment

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    amount once or twice within a few weeks of the initial failure. The Bureau, however, is aware of online and storefront lenders that use more aggressive and unpredictable payment collection practices, including breaking payments into multiple smaller payments and attempting to collect payment multiple times in one day or over a short period of time.\299\ The cost to lenders to repeatedly attempt payment depends on their contracts with payment processors and commercial banks, but is generally nominal; the Bureau estimates the cost is in a range of 5 to 15 cents for an ACH transaction.\300\ These practices are discussed in more detail in Market Concerns--Payments.

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    \298\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 20 (Spring 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201405_cfpb_supervisory-highlights-spring-2014.pdf (``Upon a borrower's default, payday lenders frequently will initiate one or more preauthorized ACH transactions pursuant to the loan agreement for repayment from the borrower's checking account.''); FirstCash Fin. Servs., Inc. 2014 Annual Report (Form10-K) at 5 (Feb. 12, 2015) (``Banks return a significant number of ACH transactions and customer checks deposited into the Independent Lender's account due to insufficient funds in the customers' accounts. The Company subsequently collects a large percentage of these bad debts by redepositing the customers' checks, ACH collections or receiving subsequent cash repayments by the customers.''); Advance America, ``FAQs on Payday Loans/Cash Advances,'' https://www.advanceamerica.net/questions/payday-loans-cash-advances (last visited Sept. 17, 2017) (``Once we present your bank with your ACH authorization for payment, your bank will send the specified amount to CashNetUSA. If the payment is returned because of insufficient funds, CashNetUSA can and will re-present the ACH Authorization to your bank.'').

    \299\ See generally CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments.

    \300\ The Bureau reviewed publicly available litigation documents and fee schedules posted online by originating depository institutions to compile these estimates. However, because of the limited availability of private contracts and variability of commercial bank fees, these estimates are tentative. Originators typically also pay their commercial bank or payment processor fees for returned ACH and check payments. These fees appear to range widely, from 5 cents to several dollars.

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    As noted above, banks and credit unions that lend to their account holders can use their internal system to transfer funds from the consumer accounts and do not need to utilize the payment networks. Deposit advance products and their payment structures are discussed further in part II.B. The Bureau believes that many small-dollar loans with depository institutions are paid through internal transfers.

    Due to the fact that lenders obtain authorizations to use multiple payment channels and benefit from flexibility in the underlying payment systems, lenders generally enjoy broad discretion over the parameters of how a particular payment will be pulled from a consumer's account, including the date, amount, and payment method. For example, although a check specifies a date, lenders may not present the check on that date. Under UCC section 4-401, merchants can present checks for payment even if the check specifies a later date.\301\ Lenders sometimes attempt to collect payment on a different date from the one stated on a check or original authorization. They may shift the attempt date in order to maximize the likelihood that funds will be in the account; some use their own models to determine when to collect, while others use predictive payment products provided by third parties that estimate when funds are most likely to be in the account.\302\

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    \301\ UCC section 4-401(c) (``A bank may charge against the account of a customer a check that is otherwise properly payable from the account, even though payment was made before the date of the check, unless the customer has given notice to the bank of the postdating describing the check with reasonable certainty.'').

    \302\ See, e.g., Press Release, Clarity Servs., Inc., ``ACH Presentment Will Help Lenders Reduce Failed ACH Pulls'' (Aug. 1, 2013), available at https://www.clarityservices.com/clear-warning-ach-presentment-will-help-lenders-reduce-failed-ach-pulls/; FactorTrust, ``Service Offerings,'' http://ws.factortrust.com/products/ (last visited May 4, 2016); Microbilt, ``Bank Account Verify,'' http://www.microbilt.com/bank-account-verification.aspx (last visited May 4, 2016); DataX, ``Credit Risk Mitigation,'' http://www.dataxltd.com/ancillary-services/successful-collections/ (last visited May 4, 2016).

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    Moreover, the checks provided by consumers during origination often are not processed as checks. Rather than sending these payments through the check clearing network, lenders often process these payments through the ACH network. They are able to use the consumer account number and routing number on a check to initiate an ACH transaction. When lenders use the ACH network in a first attempt to collect payment, the lender has used the check as a source document and the payment is considered an electronic fund transfer under EFTA and Regulation E,\303\ which generally provide additional consumer protections--such as error resolution rights--beyond those applicable to checks. However, if a transaction is initially processed through the check system and then processed through the ACH network because the first attempt failed for insufficient funds, the subsequent ACH attempt is not considered an electronic fund transfer under current Regulation E.\304\ Similarly, consumers may provide their account and routing number to lenders for the purposes of an ACH payment, but the lender may use that information to initiate a remotely created check that is processed through the check system and thus may not receive Regulation E protections.\305\

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    \303\ 12 CFR 1005.3(b)(2)(i) (``This part applies where a check, draft, or similar paper instrument is used as a source of information to initiate a one-time electronic fund transfer from a consumer's account. The consumer must authorize the transfer.'').

    \304\ Supplement I, Official Staff Interpretations, 12 CFR part 1005, comment 3(c)(1) (``The electronic re-presentment of a returned check is not covered by Regulation E because the transaction originated by check.'').

    \305\ Remotely created checks are particularly risky for consumers because they have been considered to fall outside of protections for electronic fund transfers under Regulation E. Also, unlike signature paper checks, they are created by the entity seeking payment (in this case, the lender)--making such payments particularly difficult to track and reverse in cases of error or fraud. Due to concerns about remotely created checks and remotely created payment orders, the FTC recently banned the use of these payment methods by telemarketers. See FTC Final Amendments to Telemarketing Sales Rule, 80 FR 77520 (Dec. 14, 2015).

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    Payment System Regulation and Private Network Requirements

    Different payment mechanisms are subject to different laws and, in some cases, private network rules that affect how lenders can exercise their rights to initiate withdrawals from consumers' accounts and how consumers may attempt to limit or stop certain withdrawal activity after granting an initial authorization. Because ACH payments and post-

    dated checks are the most common authorization mechanisms used by payday and payday installment lenders, this section briefly outlines applicable Federal laws and National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA) rules concerning stop-payment rights, prohibitions on unauthorized payments, notices where payment amounts vary, and rules governing failed withdrawal attempts.

    NACHA recently adopted several changes to the ACH network rules in response to complaints about problematic behavior by payday and payday installment lenders, including a rule that allows it to more closely scrutinize originators who have a high rate of returned payments.\306\ Issues around monitoring and enforcing those rules and their application to problems in the market for covered loans are discussed in more detail in Market Concerns--Payments. But it should be noted here at the outset that the NACHA rules only apply to payment attempts through ACH and are not enforceable by the Bureau.

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    \306\ See NACHA, ``ACH Network Risk and Enforcement Topics,'' https://www.nacha.org/rules/ach-network-risk-and-enforcement-topics (last visited Sept. 23, 2017) (providing an overview of changes to the NACHA Rules); NACHA, ``ACH Operations Bulletin #1-2014: Questionable ACH Debit Origination: Roles and Responsibilities of ODFIs and RDFIs'' (Sept. 30, 2014), available at https://www.nacha.org/news/ach-operations-bulletin-1-2014-questionable-ach-debit-origination-roles-and-responsibilities (``During 2013, the ACH Network and its financial institution participants came under scrutiny as a result of the origination practices of certain businesses, such as online payday lenders, in using the ACH Network to debit consumers' accounts.'').

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    Stop-payment rights. For preauthorized (recurring) electronic fund transfers,\307\ EFTA grants consumers a right to stop paym ent by issuing a stop-payment order through their depository institution.\308\ The

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    NACHA private rules adopt this EFTA provision along with additional stop-payment rights. In contrast to EFTA, NACHA provides consumers with a stop-payment right for both one-time and preauthorized transfers.\309\ Specifically, for recurring transfers, NACHA Rules require financial institutions to honor a stop-payment order as long as the consumer notifies the bank at least 3 banking days before the scheduled debit.\310\ For one-time transfers, NACHA Rules require financial institutions to honor the stop-payment order as long as the notification provides them with a ``reasonable opportunity to act upon the order.'' \311\ Consumers may notify the bank or credit union verbally or in writing, but if the consumer does not provide written confirmation the oral stop-payment order may not be binding beyond 14 days. If a consumer wishes to stop all future payments from an originator, NACHA Rules allow a bank or credit union to require the consumer to confirm in writing that she has revoked authorization from the originator.

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    \307\ A preauthorized transfer is ``an electronic fund transfer authorized in advance to recur at substantially regular intervals. EFTA, 15 U.S.C. 1693a(10); Regulation E, 12 CFR 1005.2(k).

    \308\ ``A consumer may stop payment of a preauthorized electronic fund transfer by notifying the financial institution orally or in writing at any time up to three business days preceding the scheduled date of such transfer.'' EFTA, 15 U.S.C. 1693e(a); Regulation E, 12 CFR 1005.10(c).

    \309\ See NACHA Rule 3.7.1.2, RDFI Obligation to Stop Payment of Single Entries (``An RDFI must honor a stop-payment order provided by a Receiver, either verbally or in writing, to the RDFI at such time and in such manner as to allow the RDFI a reasonable opportunity to act upon the order prior to acting on an ARC, BOC, POP, or RCK Entry, or a Single Entry IAT, PPD, TEL, or WEB Entry to a Consumer Account.'').

    \310\ NACHA Rule 3.7.1.1.

    \311\ NACHA Rule 3.7.1.2.

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    Checks are also subject to a stop-payment right under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).\312\ Consumers have a right to stop payment on any check by providing the bank with oral (valid for 14 days) or written (valid for 6 months) notice. To be effective, the stop-payment notice must describe the check ``with reasonable certainty'' and give the bank enough information to find the check under the technology then existing.\313\ The stop-payment notice also must be given at a time that affords the bank a reasonable opportunity to act on it before the bank becomes liable for the check under U.C.C. 4-303.

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    \312\ U.C.C. 4-403.

    \313\ U.C.C. 4-403 cmt. 5.

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    Although EFTA, the UCC, and NACHA Rules provide consumers with stop-payment rights, financial institutions typically charge a fee of approximately $32 for consumers to exercise those rights.\314\ Further, both lenders and financial institutions often impose a variety of requirements that make the process for stopping payments confusing and burdensome for consumers. See the discussion of these requirements in Market Concerns--Payments.

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    \314\ Median stop-payment fee for an individual stop-payment order charged by the 50 largest financial institutions in 2015 based on information in the Informa Research Database. See Research Srvs, Inc., ``Informa Research Database,'' www.informars.com (last visited Mar. 2016). Although information has been obtained from the various financial institutions, the accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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    Protection from unauthorized payments. Regulation E and NACHA Rules both provide protections with respect to payments by a consumer's financial institution if the electronic transfer is unauthorized.\315\ Payments originally authorized by the consumer can become unauthorized under EFTA if the consumer notifies his or her financial institution that the originator's authorization has been revoked.\316\ NACHA has a specific threshold for unauthorized returns, which involve transactions that originally collected funds from a consumer's account but that the consumer is disputing as unauthorized. Under NACHA Rules, originators are required to operate with an unauthorized return rate below 0.5 percent or they risk fines and loss of access to the ACH network.\317\

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    \315\ NACHA Rule 2.3.1, General Rule, Originator Must Obtain Authorization from Receiver.

    \316\ EFTA, 15 U.S.C. 1693a(12) (providing that the term ``unauthorized electronic fund transfer'' means an electronic fund transfer from a consumer's account initiated by a person other than the consumer without actual authority to initiate such transfer and from which the consumer receives no benefit, but that the term does not include, among other things, any electronic fund transfer initiated by a person other than the consumer who was furnished with the card, code, or other means of access to such consumer's account by such consumer, unless the consumer has notified the financial institution involved that transfers by such other person are no longer authorized). Regulation E implements this provision at 12 CFR 1005.2(m).

    \317\ NACHA Rule 2.17.2.

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    Notice of variable amounts. Regulation E and the NACHA Rules both provide that if the debit amount for a preauthorized transfer changes from the previous transfer or from the preauthorized amount, consumers must receive a notice 10 calendar days prior to the debit.\318\ However, both of these rules have an exception from this requirement if consumers have agreed to a range of debit amounts and the payment does not fall outside that range.\319\

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    \318\ 12 CFR 1005.10(d)(1) (providing that when a preauthorized electronic fund transfer from the consumer's account will vary in amount from the previous transfer under the same authorization or from the preauthorized amount, the designated payee or the financial institution shall send the consumer written notice of the amount and date of the transfer at least 10 days before the scheduled date of transfer); NACHA Rule 2.3.2.6(a).

    \319\ 12 CFR 1005.10(d)(2) (providing that the designated payee or the institution shall inform the consumer of the right to receive notice of all varying transfers, but may give the consumer the option of receiving notice only when a transfer falls outside a specified range of amounts or only when a transfer differs from the most recent transfer by more than an agreed-upon amount); NACHA Rule 2.3.2.6(b).

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    Based on outreach and market research, the Bureau does not believe that most payday and payday installment lenders making loans that will be covered under the rule are providing a notice of transfers varying in amount. However, the Bureau is aware that many of these lenders take authorizations for a range of amounts. As a result, lenders use these broad authorizations rather than fall under the Regulation E requirement to send a notice of transfers varying in amount even when collecting for an irregular amount (for example, by adding fees or a past due amount to a regularly scheduled payment). Some of these contracts provide that the consumer is authorizing the lender to initiate payment for any amount up to the full amount due on the loan.\320\

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    \320\ For example, a 2013 One Click Cash Loan Contract states: The range of ACH debit entries will be from the amount applied to finance charge for the payment due on the payment date as detailed in the repayment schedule in your loan agreement to an amount equal to the entire balance due and payable if you default on your loan agreement, plus a return item fee you may owe as explained in your loan agreement. You further authorize us to vary the amount of any ACH debit entry we may initiate to your account as needed to pay the payment due on the payment date as detailed in the repayment schedule in your loan agreement as modified by any prepayment arrangements you may make, any modifications you and we agree to regarding your loan agreement, or to pay any return item fee you may owe as explained in your loan agreement.''); Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Arbitration at exhibit 1, 38, 55, Labajo v. First Int'l Bank & Trust, No. 14-00627 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2014), ECF No. 26-3. (SFS Inc., d/b/a One Click Cash, Authorization to Initiate ACH Debit and Credit Entries).

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    Reinitiation Cap. After a payment attempt has failed, NACHA Rules allow an originator--in this case, the lender that is trying to collect payment--to attempt to collect that same payment no more than two additional times through the ACH network.\321\ NACHA Rules also require the ACH files \322\ for the two additional attempts to be labeled as ``reinitiated'' transactions. Because the rule applies on a per-payment basis, for lenders with recurring payment

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    authorizations, the count resets to zero when the next scheduled payment comes due.

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    \321\ NACHA Rule 2.12.4.

    \322\ ACH transactions are transferred in a standardized electronic file format between financial institutions and ACH network operators. These files contain information about the payment itself along with routing information for the applicable consumer account, originator (or in this case, the lender) account, and financial institution.

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    III. Summary of the Rulemaking Process

    As described in more detail below, the Bureau has conducted broad outreach with a multitude of stakeholders on a consistent basis over more than five years to learn more about the market for small-dollar loans of various kinds. This outreach has comprised many public events, including field hearings, and hundreds of meetings with both consumer and industry stakeholders on the issues raised by small-dollar lending. In addition to meeting with lenders and other market participants, trade associations, consumer groups, community groups, and others, the Bureau has engaged with individual faith leaders and coalitions of faith leaders from around the country to gain their perspective on how these loans affect their communities and the people they serve. And the Bureau has met frequently with Federal, State, and Tribal officials to consult and share information about these kinds of loans and their consequences for consumers.

    The Bureau's understanding of these loans, and how they affect consumers, has also been furthered by its ongoing supervisory activity, which involves exercising its legally mandated authority to conduct formal examinations of companies who make such loans and of debt collectors who collect on such loans. These examinations have canvassed the operations, marketing, underwriting, collections, and compliance management systems at such lenders and continue to do so on an ongoing basis. In addition, the Bureau has investigated and taken enforcement actions against a number of small-dollar lenders, which has provided further insight into various aspects of their operations and the practical effects of their business models on consumers.

    The Bureau has also undertaken extensive research and analysis over several years to develop the factual foundation for issuance of this final rule. That research and analysis has included multiple white papers and data points on millions of such loans,\323\ as well as careful review of studies and reports prepared by others and the relevant academic literature.\324\ The Bureau has analyzed its own data on consumer complaints about the issues raised by small-dollar loans and the collections efforts made by lenders and debt collectors on such loans. And the Bureau has consistently engaged in market monitoring activities to gain insights into developing trends in the market for small-dollar loans.

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    \323\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Payday Loans, Auto Title Loans, and High-Cost Installment Loans: Highlights from CFPB Research,'' (June 2, 2016), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Payday_Loans_Highlights_From_CFPB_Research.pdf (summary of the CFPB's independent research).

    \324\ See part VII and the Section 1022(b)(2) Analysis for more on the relevant academic literature.

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    All of the input and feedback the Bureau has received from its outreach over the years, its extensive experience of examining and investigating small-dollar lenders, and its research and analysis of the marketplace, have assisted the Bureau in developing and issuing this final rule. The material presented in this section summarizes the Bureau's work relating to the rule in three categories:

    The Bureau's background and processes in developing the rule;

    the key elements of the notice of proposed rulemaking; and

    the receipt and consideration of feedback prior to finalizing the rule.

  10. Bureau Outreach to Stakeholders

    Birmingham Field Hearing. The Bureau's formal outreach efforts on this subject began in January 2012, when it held its first public field hearing in Birmingham, Alabama, focused on small-dollar lending. At the field hearing, the Bureau heard testimony and received input from consumers, civil rights groups, consumer advocates, religious leaders, industry and trade association representatives, academics, and elected representatives and other governmental officials about consumers' experiences with small-dollar loan products. At the same time, the Bureau announced the launch of its program to conduct supervisory examinations of payday lenders pursuant to the Bureau's authority under section 1024 of the Dodd-Frank Act. As part of this initiative, the Bureau put in place a process to obtain loan-level records from a number of large payday lenders to assist in analyzing the nature and effects of such loans.

    The Bureau transcribed the field hearing and posted the transcript on its Web site.\325\ Concurrently, the Bureau placed a notice in the Federal Register inviting public comment on the issues discussed in the field hearing. The Bureau received 664 public comments in response to that request, which were reviewed and analyzed.

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    \325\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``In the Matter Of: A Field Hearing on Payday Lending, Hearing Transcript,'' (Jan. 19, 2012), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201201_cfpb_transcript_payday-lending-field-hearing-alabama.pdf.

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    Nashville Field Hearing. In March 2014, the Bureau held a field hearing in Nashville, Tennessee to gather further input from a broad range of stakeholders.\326\ The Bureau heard testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, academics, and members of the public, including consumers of payday loans. The field hearing was held in conjunction with issuing the second of two research reports on findings by Bureau staff using the supervisory data that it had collected from a number of large payday lenders. In the Director's opening remarks, he noted three concerns associated with covered loans that had been identified in recent Bureau research: That a significant population of consumers were ending up in extended loan sequences; that some lenders use the electronic payments system in ways that pose risks to consumers; and that a troubling number of companies engage in collection activities that may be unfair or deceptive in one or more ways. While the Bureau was working on these reports and in the period following their release, the Bureau held numerous meetings with stakeholders on small-dollar lending in general and to hear their views on potential policy approaches.

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    \326\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Live from Nashville--

    Field Hearing on Payday Loans,'' CFPB Blog (Mar. 25, 2014), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/live-from-nashville/.

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    Richmond Field Hearing. In March 2015, the Bureau held another field hearing in Richmond, Virginia to gather further input from a broad range of stakeholders.\327\ The focus of this field hearing was the announcement the Bureau simultaneously made of the rulemaking proposals it had under consideration that would require lenders to take steps to make sure consumers can repay their loans and would restrict certain methods of collecting payments from consumers' bank accounts in ways that lead to substantial penalty fees. The Bureau heard testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, faith leaders, and members of the public, including consumers of payday loans. In addition to the field hearing, the Bureau held separate roundtable discussions with consumer advocates and with industry

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    members and trade associations to hear feedback on the rulemaking proposals under consideration.

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    \327\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Field Hearing on Payday Loans in Richmond, VA,'' Archive of Past Events (Mar. 26, 2015), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/events/archive-past-events/field-hearing-on-payday-lending/.

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    A summary of the rulemaking proposals under consideration was released at the time of the Richmond field hearing. This marked the first stage in the process the Bureau is required to follow under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act (SBREFA),\328\ which is discussed in more detail below. The summary was formally known as the Small Business Review Panel Outline. In addition to the discussions that occurred at the time of the Richmond field hearing, the Bureau has met on a number of other occasions with industry members and trade associations, including those representing storefront payday lenders, to discuss their feedback on the issues presented in the Outline.

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    \328\ Public Law 104-1.21, 110 Stat. 847 (1996).

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    Omaha Meeting and Other Events. At the Bureau's Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting in June 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska, a number of meetings and field events were held about payday, vehicle title, and similar loans. The CAB advises and consults with the Bureau in the exercise of its functions under the Federal consumer financial laws, and provides information on emerging practices in the consumer financial products and services industry, including regional trends, concerns, and other relevant information. The CAB members over several years have included, among others, a payday lending executive and consumer advocates on payday lending. The Omaha events included a visit to a payday loan store to learn more about its operations first-hand and a day-long public session that focused on the Bureau's proposals in the Small Business Review Panel Outline and trends in payday and vehicle title lending. The CAB also held six subcommittee discussions on the Outline in the spring and summer of 2015, and three more subcommittee discussions on the proposed rule in the summer of 2016.

    Kansas City Field Hearing. In June 2016, the Bureau held a field hearing in Kansas City, Missouri to gather further input on the issues surrounding potential new Federal regulations of small-dollar lending.\329\ The focus of this field hearing was the announcement that the Bureau simultaneously made of the release of its notice of proposed rulemaking on payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans. The proposed rule would require lenders to take steps to make a reasonable determination that consumers can afford to repay their loans and would restrict certain methods of collecting payments from consumers' bank accounts in ways that can lead to substantial penalty fees. The Bureau heard testimony on the proposed rule from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public, including consumers of payday loans.

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    \329\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Field Hearing on Small Dollar Lending in Kansas City, MO,'' Archive of Past Events (June 2, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/events/archive-past-events/field-hearing-small-dollar-lending-kansas-city-mo/.

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    The release of the notice of proposed rulemaking commenced the formal notice-and-comment process under the Administrative Procedure Act. In the notice of proposed rulemaking, the Bureau stated that comments on the proposed rule would have to be received on or before October 7, 2016 to be considered by the Bureau. The notice of proposed rulemaking further specified the details of the methods by which comments would be received, which included email, electronic, mail, and hand delivery/courier. The Bureau also noted that all comments submitted would become part of the public record and would be subject to public disclosure.

    Little Rock Meeting and Other Events. In June 2016, just a week after the field hearing in Kansas City announcing the public release of the proposed rule, the CAB held another public meeting on this topic in Little Rock, Arkansas. Among other things, Bureau officials gave a public briefing on the proposed rule to the CAB members, and the Bureau heard testimony from the general public on the subject.

    Two of the Bureau's other advisory bodies have also provided input and feedback on the Bureau's work to develop appropriate provisions to regulate small-dollar loans. The Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC) held two subcommittee discussions of the proposals contained in the Small Business Review Panel Outline in March 2015 and November 2015, a Council discussion on the proposed rule in July 2016, and two more subcommittee discussions of the proposed rule in the summer of 2016. In addition, the Bureau's Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC) held two subcommittee discussions of the proposals in April 2015 and October 2015, discussed the Outline in its full meeting in March 2016, and held two subcommittee discussions of the proposed rule during the summer of 2016.

    Faith Leaders. The Bureau has taken part in a large number of meetings with faith leaders, and coalitions of faith leaders, of all denominations to hear their perspective on how small-dollar loans affect their communities and the people they serve. In April 2016, the White House convened a meeting of national faith leaders for this purpose, which included the Bureau's director. The Bureau has also engaged in outreach to local and national leaders from churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples--both in Washington, DC and in many locations around the country. In these sessions, the Bureau has heard from faith leaders about the challenges some of them have faced in seeking to develop alternatives to payday loans that would mitigate what they perceive to be the harms caused to consumers.

    General Outreach. Various Bureau leaders, including its director, and Bureau staff have participated in and spoken at dozens of events and conferences throughout the country, which have provided further opportunities to gather insight and recommendations from both industry and consumer groups about how to approach the issue of whether and how to regulate small-dollar loans. In addition to gathering information from meetings with lenders and trade associations and through regular supervisory and enforcement activities, Bureau staff made fact-finding visits to at least 12 non-depository payday and vehicle title lenders.

    Inter-Agency Consultation. As discussed in connection with section 1022 of the Dodd-Frank Act below, the Bureau has consulted with other Federal consumer protection and prudential regulators about these issues and the approaches that the other regulators have taken to small-dollar lending over the years. The Bureau has provided other regulators with information about the proposals under consideration, sought their input, and received feedback that has assisted the Bureau in preparing this final rule. In addition, the Bureau was involved, along with its fellow Federal regulatory agencies, in meetings and other efforts to assist the U.S. Department of Defense as it developed and adopted regulations to implement updates to the Military Lending Act. That statute governs small-dollar loans in addition to various other loan products, and the Bureau developed insights from this work that have been germane to this rulemaking, especially in how to address the potential for lenders to find ways to evade or circumvent its provisions.

    Consultation with State and Local Officials. The Bureau's outreach also has included a large number of meetings

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    and calls with State Attorneys General, State financial regulators, and municipal governments, along with the organizations representing the officials charged with enforcing applicable Federal, State, and local laws on small-dollar loans. These discussions have occurred with officials from States that effectively disallow such loans by imposing strict usury caps, as well as with officials from States that allow such loans and regulate them through various frameworks with different substantive approaches. The issues discussed have involved both storefront and online loans. In particular, as the Bureau has worked to develop the proposed registered information system requirements, it has consulted with State agencies from those States that require lenders to provide information about certain small-dollar loans to statewide databases. A group of State Attorneys General submitted a comment claiming that the extent to which the Bureau consulted State and local officials was insufficient. Some other State officials submitted similar comments. Although it is true that the Bureau did not meet with every attorney general or interested official from every State to discuss issues involving the regulation of small-dollar loans, it did meet with many of them, some on multiple occasions. In addition, the Bureau did receive public comments from groups of State Attorneys General and other officials, including both regulators and legislators, and has carefully considered the issues they discussed, which presented many conflicting points of view.

    Several State Attorneys General requested that the Bureau commit to consulting with State officials before enforcing this regulation. The Bureau will coordinate and consult with State regulators and enforcement officials in the same manner that it does in other enforcement and supervisory matters.

    Tribal Consultations. The Bureau has engaged in consultation with Indian tribes about this rulemaking. The Bureau's Policy for Consultation with Tribal Governments provides that the Bureau ``is committed to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials, leading to meaningful dialogue with Indian tribes on Bureau policies that would be expressly directed to tribal governments or tribal members or that would have direct implications for Indian tribes.'' \330\ To date, the Bureau has held three formal consultation sessions related to this rulemaking. The first was held on October 27, 2014, at the National Congress of American Indians 71st Annual Convention and Marketplace in Atlanta, Georgia and before the release of the Bureau's small-dollar lending SBREFA materials. The timing of the consultation gave Tribal leaders an opportunity to speak directly with the small-dollar lending team about Tribal lender and/or consumer experiences prior to the drafting of proposals that would become the Small Business Review Panel Outline. A second consultation was held on June 15, 2015, at the Bureau's headquarters. At that consultation, Tribal leaders responded to the proposals under consideration set forth in the Outline that had recently been released. A third consultation was held on August 17, 2016, at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona, after the release of the proposed rule. All Federally recognized Indian tribes were invited to attend these consultations, which generated frank and valuable input from Tribal leaders to Bureau senior leadership and staff about the effects such a rulemaking could have on Tribal nations and lenders. In addition, the Bureau has met individually with Tribal leaders, Tribal lenders, and Tribal lending associations in an effort to further inform its small-

    dollar lending work. A Tribal trade association dealing with financial services issues informed the Bureau that it believed these consultations were inadequate.

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    \330\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Policy for Consultation with Tribal Governments,'' at 1, available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201304_cfpb_consultations.pdf.

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  11. Supervisory and Enforcement Activity

    In addition to these many channels of outreach, the Bureau has developed a broader understanding of small-dollar lending through its supervisory and enforcement work. This work is part of the foundation of the Bureau's expertise and experience with this market, which is informed by frequent contact with certain small-dollar lenders and the opportunity to scrutinize their operations and practices up close through supervisory examinations and enforcement investigations. Some illustrative details of this work are related below.

    The Bureau's Supervisory Work. The Bureau has been performing supervisory examinations of small-dollar lenders for more than five years. During this time, the Bureau has written and published its guidelines on performing such examinations, which its exam teams have applied and refined further over time.\331\ All of this work has provided the Bureau with a quite comprehensive vantage point on the operations of payday and other small-dollar lenders and the nature and effects of their loan products for consumers.

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    \331\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Examination Procedures, Short-term, Small-Dollar Lending,'' available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201309_cfpb_payday_manual_revisions.pdf.

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    In its regular published reports known as Supervisory Highlights, the Bureau has summarized, while maintaining confidentiality of supervised entities, the types of issues and concerns that arise in its examinations of non-bank financial companies in general, and of small-

    dollar lenders in particular. In its Summer 2013 edition, for example, the Bureau emphasized its general finding that ``nonbanks are more likely to lack a robust Compliance Management System as their consumer compliance-related activities have not been subject to examinations at the federal level for compliance with the Federal consumer financial laws prior to the Bureau's existence.'' \332\ The Bureau noted that it had identified ``one or more instances of nonbanks that lack formal policies and procedures, have not developed a consumer compliance program, or do not conduct independent consumer compliance audits. Lack of an effective CMS has, in a number of instances, resulted in violations of Federal consumer financial laws.'' \333\

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    \332\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 6 (Summer 2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_supervisory-highlights_august.pdf.

    \333\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 6 (Summer 2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_supervisory-highlights_august.pdf.

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    In the Spring 2014 edition, the Bureau addressed its supervisory approach to short-term, small-dollar lending in more detail. At that time, the Bureau noted that its exercise of supervisory authority marked the first time any of these lenders had been subject to Federal compliance examinations. The Bureau described a number of shortcomings it had found and addressed with the compliance management systems implemented by small-dollar lenders, including lack of oversight, inadequate complaint management, lack of written policies and procedures, failure to train staff adequately, lack of effective compliance audit programs, and more generally a pervasive lack of accountability within the compliance program. It also catalogued many different violations and abuses in the collection methods these lenders used with their customers. Finally, the report noted that Bureau examinations found

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    deceptive practices in the use of preauthorized ACH withdrawals from borrower checking accounts.\334\

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    \334\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 14-20 (Spring 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201405_cfpb_supervisory-highlights-spring-2014.pdf.

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    The Summer 2016 edition included a discussion of debt collection issues, which are relevant to many payday lenders, and also included a section explicitly dedicated to small-dollar lending and issues associated with compliance with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. The Bureau's examiners found that the ``loan agreements of one or more entities failed to set out an acceptable range of amounts to be debited, in lieu of providing individual notice of transfers of varying amounts. These ranges could not be anticipated by the consumer because they contained ambiguous or undefined terms in their descriptions of the upper and lower limits of the range.'' \335\ And the Spring 2017 edition expressed concerns about production incentives relevant to many providers of financial services, noting that ``many supervised entities choose to implement incentive programs to achieve business objectives. These production incentives can lead to significant consumer harm if not properly managed.'' \336\

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    \335\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 13 (Summer 2016), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Supervisory_Highlights_Issue_12.pdf.

    \336\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 27 (Spring 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201704_cfpb_Supervisory-Highlights_Issue-15.pdf.

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    In the most recent Summer 2017 edition, the Bureau again described problems that it had addressed with short-term, small-dollar lending, including payday and vehicle title loans. Among them were a variety of collections issues, along with misrepresentations that several lenders had made in the marketing of such loans. Examiners reported that lenders had promised consumers that they could obtain such a loan without a credit check, yet this turned out to be untrue and, in some instances, to lead to loan denials based on the information obtained from the consumers' credit reports. They also found that certain lenders advertised products and services in their outdoor signage that they did not, in fact, offer. And some lenders advertised their products by making unsubstantiated claims about how they compared with those of competing lenders. These practices were found to be deceptive and changes were ordered to be made.\337\

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    \337\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 28-30 (Summer 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201709_cfpb_Supervisory-Highlights_Issue-16.pdf.

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    The Bureau further found that some lenders misrepresented their processes to apply for a loan online, and others misused references provided by loan applicants on applications for origination purposes by marketing products to the persons listed. Finally, examiners observed that one or more lenders mishandled the payment process by debiting accounts automatically for payments that had already been made, leading to unauthorized charges and overpayments. The entities also failed to implement adequate processes to accurately and promptly identify and refund borrowers who paid more than they owed, who were unable to avoid the injury.\338\

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    \338\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 31-32 (Summer 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201709_cfpb_Supervisory-Highlights_Issue-16.pdf.

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    The Bureau's Enforcement Work. The Bureau also has developed expertise and experience in this market over time by pursuing public enforcement actions against more than 20 small-dollar lenders, including brick-and-mortar storefront lenders, online lenders, and vehicle title lenders (as well as pawn lenders, which are not covered under the rule). A number of these actions have been resolved, but some remain pending in the courts at this time. In every instance, however, before the enforcement action was brought, it was preceded by a thorough investigation of the underlying facts in order to determine whether legal violations had occurred. The issues raised in these actions include engaging in misleading and deceptive marketing practices, making improper disclosures, training employees to hide or obfuscate fees, pushing customers into a cycle of debt by pressuring them to take out additional loans they could not afford, making false statements about whether and how transactions can be canceled or reversed, taking unauthorized and improper electronic withdrawals from customer accounts, and engaging in collections efforts that generate wide-ranging problems.\339\ The Bureau has determined many of these practices to be violations of the prohibition against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. The information and insights that the Bureau has gleaned from these investigations and enforcement actions has further advanced its understanding of this market and of the factual foundations for the policy interventions contained in this final rule.

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    \339\ See, e.g., Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Acton Against Check Cashing and Payday Lending Company for Tricking and Trapping Consumers'' (May 11, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-check-cashing-and-payday-lending-company-tricking-and-trapping-consumers/; Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Fines Titlemax Parent Company $9 Million for Luring Consumers Into More Costly Loans'' (Sept. 26, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-fines-titlemax-parent-company-9-million-luring-consumers-more-costly-loans/; Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Sues Five Arizona Title Lenders for Failing to Disclose Loan Annual Percentage Rate to Consumers'' (Sept. 21, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-sues-five-arizona-title-lenders-failing-disclose-loan-annual-percentage-rate-consumers/; Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Sues Offshore Payday Lender'' (Aug. 5, 2015), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-sues-offshore-payday-lender/; Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes Action Against Payday Lender for Robo-Signing'' (Nov. 20, 2013), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-takes-action-against-payday-lender-for-robo-signing/.

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    For example, in 2013 the Bureau resolved a public enforcement action against Cash America, Inc. that arose out of an examination of this large national payday lender. The Bureau cited Cash America for committing three distinct unfair and deceptive practices: Robo-signing court documents in debt collection lawsuits; violating the Military Lending Act by overcharging servicemembers and their families; and improperly destroying records in advance of the Bureau's examination. Cash America was ordered to pay $14 million in refunds to consumers and to pay a civil penalty of $5 million for these violations.\340\

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    \340\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes Action Against Payday Lender for Robo-Signing'' (Nov. 20, 2013), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-takes-action-against-payday-lender-for-robo-signing/.

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    In 2014, the Bureau filed a public enforcement action against Ace Cash Express that developed out of the Bureau's prior exam work. The Bureau found through its examination and subsequent investigation that ACE had engaged in unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices by using illegal debt collection tactics to pressure overdue borrowers into taking out additional loans they could not afford. In fact, ACE's own training manual for its employees had a graphic illustrating this cycle of debt. According to the graphic, consumers begin by applying to ACE for a loan, which ACE approved.

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    Next, if the consumer ``exhausts the cash and does not have the ability to pay,'' ACE ``contacts the customer for payment or offers the option to refinance or extend the loan.'' Then, when the consumer ``does not make a payment and the account enters collections,'' the cycle starts all over again--with the formerly overdue borrower applying for another payday loan.\341\

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    \341\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Ace Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt'' (July 10, 2014), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-ace-cash-express-for-pushing-payday-borrowers-into-cycle-of-debt/.

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    The Bureau's examination of ACE was conducted in coordination with the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner and resulted in an order imposing $5 million in consumer refunds and a $5 million civil penalty. The enforcement action was partially based on ACE's creation of a false sense of urgency to get delinquent borrowers to take out more payday loans--all while charging new fees each time.\342\

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    \342\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Ace Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt'' (July 10, 2014), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-ace-cash-express-for-pushing-payday-borrowers-into-cycle-of-debt/.

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    In September 2015, the Bureau took action against Westlake Services, an indirect auto finance company, and Wilshire Consumer Credit, its auto title lending subsidiary, which offered auto title loans directly to consumers, largely via the Internet, and serviced those loans; Wilshire also purchased and serviced auto title loans made by others. The Bureau concluded that Westlake and Wilshire had committed unfair and deceptive acts or practices by pressuring borrowers through the use of illegal debt collection tactics. The tactics included illegally deceiving consumers by using phony caller ID information (sometimes masquerading as pizza delivery services or flower shops), falsely threatening to refer borrowers for investigation or criminal prosecution, calling under false pretenses, and improperly disclosing information about debts to borrowers' employers, friends, and family. Wilshire also gave consumers incomplete information about the true cost of the loans it offered. The consent order resolving the matter required the companies to overhaul their debt collection practices and to cease advertising or marketing their products untruthfully. The companies were also ordered to provide consumers with $44.1 million in cash relief and balance reductions, and to pay a civil penalty of $4.25 million.

    In December 2015, the Bureau resolved another enforcement action with EZCORP, Inc., a short-term, small-dollar lender. The action was initially generated from a supervisory exam that had exposed significant and illegal debt collection practices. These included in-

    person collection visits at consumers' homes or workplaces (which risked disclosing the consumer's debt to unauthorized third parties), falsely threatening consumers with litigation for not paying their debts, misrepresenting consumers' rights, and unfairly making multiple electronic withdrawal attempts from consumer accounts that caused mounting bank fees. These practices were found to be unfair and deceptive and to violate the Electronic Fund Transfer Act; as a result, the Bureau ordered EZCORP to refund $7.5 million to 93,000 consumers and pay a $3 million civil penalty, while halting collection of remaining payday and installment loan debts associated with roughly 130,000 consumers. That action also prompted the Bureau to issue an industry-wide warning about potentially unlawful conduct during in-

    person collections at homes or workplaces.\343\

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    \343\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Orders EZCORP to Pay $10 million for Illegal Debt Collection Tactics,'' (Dec. 16, 2015), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-orders-ezcorp-to-pay-10-million-for-illegal-debt-collection-tactics/.

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    In September 2016, the Bureau took action against TitleMax's parent company TMX Finance, one of the country's largest auto title lenders, for luring consumers into costly loan renewals by presenting them with misleading information about the terms and costs of the deals. The Bureau's investigation found that store employees, as part of their sales pitch for the 30-day loans, offered consumers a ``monthly option'' for making loan payments using a written guide that did not explain the true cost of the loan if the consumer renewed it multiple times, though TMX personnel were well aware of these true costs. In fact, the guide and sales pitch distracted consumers from the fact that repeatedly renewing the loan, as encouraged by TMX Finance employees, would dramatically increase the loan's cost, while making it difficult, if not impossible, for a consumer to compare costs for renewing the loan over a given period. The company then followed up with those who failed to repay by making intrusive visits to homes and workplaces that put consumers' personal information at risk. TMX Finance was ordered to stop its unlawful practices and pay a $9 million penalty.\344\

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    \344\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Fines Titlemax Parent Company $9 Million for Luring Consumers into More Costly Loans,'' (Sept. 26, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-fines-titlemax-parent-company-9-million-luring-consumers-more-costly-loans/.

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    Likewise, in December 2016 the Bureau filed a public enforcement action against Moneytree, which offers payday loans and check-cashing services, for misleading consumers with deceptive online advertisements and collections letters. The company was ordered to cease its illegal conduct, refund $255,000 to consumers, and pay a civil penalty of $250,000. In addition to the deceptive advertising, the company was found to have deceptively told consumers that their vehicles could be repossessed when it had no right or ability to do so, and to have improperly withdrawn money from consumers' accounts without authorization to do so.\345\

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    \345\ See Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Moneytree for Deceptive Advertising and Collection Practices,'' (Dec. 16, 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-moneytree-deceptive-advertising-and-collection-practices/.

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    From the Bureau's experience of carrying out investigations of these kinds of illegal practices and halting them through its enforcement efforts, the Bureau has become much more aware of the nature and likelihood of unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices in this market. And though the Bureau generally has devoted less attention in its supervisory and enforcement programs to issues that it has long intended to address separately, as here, through its rulemaking authority, the Bureau nonetheless has gained valuable experience and expertise from all of this work that it now brings to this rulemaking process. Since the inception of its supervision and enforcement program, the Bureau has worked continually to maximize compliance with the Federal consumer financial laws as they apply to payday and other types of small-dollar lenders. Sustained attention to compliance through the Bureau's supervision and enforcement work is an important adjunct to this rulemaking, but is not a sufficient substitute for it.

  12. Research and Analysis of Small-Dollar Loans

    Bureau White Papers. In April 2013, the Bureau issued a white paper on payday loans and deposit advance products, including findings by Bureau staff. For each of these loan products,

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    the Bureau examined loan characteristics, borrower characteristics, intensity of use, and sustained use of the product. These findings were based largely on the data the Bureau had collected from some of the larger payday lenders under its supervisory authority, and covered approximately 15 million loans generated in 33 States and on approximately 15,000 deposit advance product transactions. The report took a snapshot of borrowers at the beginning of the study period and traced their usage of these products over the course of the study period. The report demonstrated that though some consumers use payday loans and deposit advances at relatively low to moderate levels, a sizable share of users conduct transactions on a long-term basis, suggesting they are unable to fully repay the loan and pay other expenses without taking out a new loan shortly thereafter.\346\

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    \346\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper.

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    In March 2014, the Bureau issued another white paper on payday lending. This report was based on the supervisory data the Bureau had received from larger payday lenders, truncated somewhat to cover 12-

    month windows into borrowing patterns. These limitations yielded a dataset of over 12 million loans in 30 States. Responding to criticisms of the Bureau's white paper, this report focused on ``fresh borrowers,'' i.e., those who did not have a payday loan in the first month of the Bureau's data and whose usage began in the second month. After reviewing this data, the report yielded several key findings. First, of the loans taken out by these borrowers over a period of eleven months over 80 percent are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days. Half of all loans are made as part of a sequence that is at least ten loans long, and few borrowers amortize, meaning their principal amounts are not reduced between the first and last loan of a sequence. Monthly borrowers (the majority of whom are receiving government benefits) are disproportionately likely to stay in debt for eleven months or longer. And most borrowing involves multiple renewals following an initial loan, rather than multiple distinct borrowing episodes separated by more than fourteen days.\347\

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    \347\ See CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending.

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    Both before and after the release of these white papers, the Bureau held numerous meetings with stakeholders to obtain their perspectives and comments on the methodology and contents of this research. As is also noted below, the Bureau also hosted individual scholars in the field for research presentations

    Additional Research Reports. In April and May of 2016, the Bureau published two additional research reports on small-dollar loans. In conducting this research, the Bureau used not only the data obtained from the supervisory examinations previously described but also data obtained through orders the Bureau had issued pursuant to section 1022(c)(4) of the Dodd-Frank Act, data obtained through civil investigative demands made by the Bureau pursuant to section 1052 of the Dodd-Frank Act, and data voluntarily supplied to the Bureau by several lenders.

    The first report addressed how online payday and payday installment lenders use access to consumers' bank accounts to collect loan payments. It found that after a failed ACH payment request made by an online lender, subsequent payment requests to the same account are unlikely to succeed, though lenders often continue to present them, with many online lenders submitting multiple payment requests on the same day. The resulting harm to consumers is shown by the fact that accounts of borrowers who use loans from online lenders and experience a payment that is returned for insufficient funds are more likely to be closed by the end of the sample period than accounts experiencing a returned payment for products other than payday or payday installment loans.\348\

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    \348\ See CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments.

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    The other report addressed consumer usage and default patterns on short-term vehicle title loans. Similar to payday loans, the report determined that single-payment vehicle title lenders rely on borrowers who take out repeated loans, with borrowers stuck in debt for seven months or more supplying two-thirds of the title loan business. In over half the instances where the borrower takes out such a loan, they end up taking out four or more consecutive loans, which becomes an unaffordable, long-term debt load for borrowers who are already struggling with their financial situations. In addition to high rates of default, the Bureau found that these loans carried a further adverse consequence for many consumers, as one out of every five loan sequences ends up with the borrower having their vehicle seized by the lender in repossession for failure to repay.\349\

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    \349\ See CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending.

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    In June 2016, the Bureau issued a supplemental report on payday, payday installment, vehicle title loan, and deposit advance products that addressed a wide range of subjects pertinent to the proposed rule. The report studied consumers' usage and default patterns for title and payday installment loans; analyzed whether deposit advance consumers overdrew accounts or took out payday loans more frequently after banks stopped offering deposit advance products; examined the impact of State laws on payday lending; compared payday re-borrowing rates across States with different renewal and cooling-off period laws; provided findings on payday borrowing and default patterns, using three different loan sequence definitions; and simulated effects of certain lending and collection restrictions on payday and vehicle title loan markets.\350\

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    \350\ See CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings.

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    Consumer Complaint Information. The Bureau also has conducted analysis on its own consumer complaint information. Specifically, the Bureau had received, as of April 1, 2017, approximately 51,000 consumer complaints relating to payday and other small-dollar loan products. Of these complaints, about one-third were submitted by consumers as payday or other small-dollar loan complaints and two-thirds as debt collection complaints where the source of the debt was a payday loan.\351\

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    \351\ The Bureau took a phased approach to accepting complaints from consumers. The Bureau began accepting payday loan complaints in November of 2013, and vehicle title loan complaints in July of 2014, which means that the complaint data it has accumulated on these markets does not cover the same periods as the complaint data it has collected, for example, on the mortgage or credit card markets.

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    Industry representatives have frequently expressed the view that consumers seem to be satisfied with payday and other covered short-term loan products, as shown by low numbers of complaints and the submission of positive stories about them to the ``Tell Your Story'' function on the Bureau's Web site. Yet, the Bureau has observed from its consumer complaint data that from November 2013 through December 2016, approximately 31,000 debt collection complaints cited payday loans as the underlying debt, and over 11 percent of the complaints the Bureau has handled about debt collection stemmed directly from payday loans.\352\

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    \352\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 9,'' at 12 fig. 3 (Mar. 2016), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_monthly-complaint-report-vol-9.pdf.

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    In fact, when complaints about payday loans are normalized in comparison to other credit products, the numbers do not turn out to be low at all. For example, in 2016, the Bureau

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    received about 4,400 complaints in which consumers reported ``payday loan'' as the complaint product and about 26,600 complaints about credit cards.\353\ Yet there are only about 12 million payday loan borrowers annually, and about 156 million consumers have one or more credit cards.\354\ Therefore, by way of comparison, for every 10,000 payday loan borrowers, the Bureau received about 3.7 complaints, while for every 10,000 credit cardholders, the Bureau received about 1.7 complaints. In addition, the substance of some of the consumer complaints about payday loans as catalogued by the Bureau mirrored many of the concerns that constitute the justification for this rule here.\355\

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    \353\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Response Annual Report, January 1-December 31, 2016,'' at 27, 34 (Mar. 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/3368/

    201703_cfpb_Consumer-Response-Annual-Report-2016.pdf.

    \354\ Bureau staff estimate based on finding that 63 percent of American adults hold an open credit card and Census population estimates. See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``The Consumer Credit Card Market Report,'' at 36 (Dec. 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_report-the-consumer-credit-card-market.pdf; U.S. Census Bureau, ``Annual Estimates of Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016,'' (June 2017), available at https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/PEP/2016/PEPAGESEX. Other estimates of the number of credit card holders have been higher, meaning that 1.7 complaints per 10,000 credit card holders would be a high estimate. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 160 million credit card holders in 2012, U.S. Census Bureau, ``Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012,'' at 740 tbl.1188 (Aug. 2011), available at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed.html, and researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimated that 72.1 percent of U.S. consumers held at least one credit card in 2014, Claire Greene et al., ``The 2014 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice: Summary Results,'' at 18 (Fed. Reserve Bank of Boston, No. 16-3, 2016), available at https://www.bostonfed.org/-/media/Documents/researchdatareport/pdf/rdr1603.pdf. As noted above in the text, additional complaints related to both payday loans and credit cards are submitted as debt collection complaints with ``payday loan'' or ``credit card'' listed as the type of debt.

    \355\ ``Consumer confusion relating to repayment terms was frequently expressed. These consumers complained of the lack of clarity about repayment of the loan using automatic withdrawal features on a bank card, on a prepaid card, or by direct deposit. Consumers with multiple advances stated their difficulty managing a short repayment period and more often rolled-over the loan, resulting in an inflated total cost of the loan.'' Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Response 2016 Annual Report, January 1-December 31, 2016,'' (Mar. 2017), available at https://

    www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/3368/201703_cfpb_Consumer-

    Response-Annual-Report-2016.pdf.

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    Moreover, faith leaders and faith groups of many denominations from around the country collected and submitted comments indicating that many borrowers may direct their personal complaints or dissatisfactions with their experiences elsewhere than to government officials.

    Market Monitoring. The Bureau has also continuously engaged in market monitoring for the small-dollar loan market, just as it does for the other markets within its jurisdiction. This work involves regular outreach to industry members and trade associations, as well as other stakeholders in this marketplace. It also involves constant attention to news, research, trends, and developments in the market for small-

    dollar loans, including regulatory changes that may be proposed and adopted by the States and localities around the country. The Bureau has also carefully reviewed the published academic literature on small-

    dollar liquidity loans, along with research conducted or sponsored by stakeholder groups. In addition, a number of outside researchers have presented their own research at seminars for Bureau staff.

  13. Small Business Review Panel

    Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Process. In April 2015, in accordance with SBREFA, the Bureau convened a Small Business Review Panel with the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA and the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).\356\ As part of this process, the Bureau prepared an outline of the proposals then under consideration and the alternatives considered (the Small Business Review Panel Outline), which it posted on its Web site for review and comment by the general public as well as the small entities participating in the panel process.\357\

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    \356\ The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), as amended by section 1100G(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act, requires the Bureau to convene a Small Business Review Panel before proposing a rule that may have a substantial economic impact on a significant number of small entities. See Public Law 104-121, tit. II, 110 Stat. 847, 857 (1996) as amended by Public Law 110-28, sec. 8302 (2007), and Public Law 111-203, sec. 1100G (2010).

    \357\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Small Business Advisory Review Panel for Potential Rulemakings for Payday, Vehicle Title, And Similar Loans: Outline of Proposals under Consideration and Alternatives Considered,'' (Mar. 26, 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201503_cfpb_outline-of-the-proposals-from-small-business-review-panel.pdf.

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    Before formally convening, the Panel took part in teleconferences with small groups of the small entity representatives (SERs) to introduce the Outline and get feedback on the Outline, as well as a series of questions about their business operations and other issues. The Panel gathered information from representatives of 27 small entities, including small payday lenders, vehicle title lenders, installment lenders, banks, and credit unions. The meeting participants represented storefront and online lenders, State-licensed lenders, and lenders affiliated with Indian tribes. The Panel held a full-day meeting on April 29, 2015, to discuss the Small Business Review Panel Outline. The 27 small entities also were invited to submit written feedback, and 24 of them did so. The Panel considered input from the small entities about the potential compliance costs and other impacts on those entities and about impacts on access to credit for small businesses and made recommendations about potential options for addressing those costs and impacts. These recommendations are set forth in the Small Business Review Panel Report, which is made part of the administrative record in this rulemaking.\358\ The Bureau carefully considered these findings and recommendations in preparing the proposed rule and completing this final rule, as detailed below in the section-

    by-section analysis of various provisions and in parts VII and VIII. The Bureau also continued its outreach and engagement with stakeholders on all sides since the SBREFA process concluded.

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    \358\ Bureau of Consumer Fin Prot., U.S. Small Bus. Admin., & Office of Mgmt. & Budget, ``Final Report of the Small Business Review Panel on CFPB's Rulemaking on Payday, Vehicle Title, and Similar Loans'' (June 25, 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/3a_-_SBREFA_Panel_-_CFPB_Payday_Rulemaking_-_Report.pdf (hereinafter Small Business Review Panel Report).

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    Comments Regarding the Bureau's SBREFA Process. Following the release of the proposed rule, a number of commenters criticized the SBREFA process. Some of these commenters were third parties such as trade associations who were familiar with the SBREFA process. Others were the SERs themselves. Some commenters argued that the Bureau failed to adequately consider the concerns raised and alternatives suggested by the SERs. Some commenters also expressed concerns about the SBREFA procedures.

    Some commenters objected that in developing the proposed rule the Bureau did not consider policy suggestions made by SERs or recommendations made by the SBREFA Panel. For example, some commenters argued that the Bureau failed to consider whether, as some SERs contended, disclosures could prevent

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    the consumer injury the Bureau is seeking to address in this rulemaking. Some commenters also suggested that the Bureau failed to adequately consider alternative approaches employed by various States. Some commenters criticized the Bureau for ignoring the Panel's recommendations in developing the proposal, including, for example, the recommendation that the Bureau consider whether the rule should permit loan sequences of more than three short-term loans. Other SER commenters argued that the Bureau should adopt the requirements imposed by certain States (like Illinois or Michigan or Utah) or should require lenders to offer off-ramps instead of the requirements herein. Some commenters indicated that they believed the Bureau ultimately ignored or underestimated the rule's potential impact on small businesses and inadequately considered the rule's potential impact on rural communities. Some commenters argued that the Bureau did not adequately address issues around the cost of credit to small entities. One commenter noted that some credit unions offer certain short-term loan products and that the Bureau did not consider the impact of the rule on credit union products and small credit unions.

    The SBA Office of Advocacy submitted comments of its own on the proposed rule and on how it responded to the SBREFA process. Although Advocacy had no complaints about the procedures used or the input received in the process, it did present its views on whether the proposed rule sufficiently reflected the discussions and debates that had occurred during the Panel discussions and the SBREFA process as a whole. To begin with, Advocacy agreed with the Bureau that the proposed rule would have a significant economic impact on small entities, which it found to be a matter of concern and felt had been underestimated by the Bureau. It stated that the ability-to-repay requirements in the proposed rule would be burdensome, and the cooling-off periods in particular would harm small businesses. It encouraged the Bureau to exempt from the rule small businesses that operate in States that currently have payday lending laws and to mitigate its impact on credit unions, Indian tribes, and small communities. Advocacy also commented that the proposed rule would restrict access to credit for consumers and for certain small businesses, and suggested that an exception be made for situations where such a loan may be necessary to address an emergency.

    The procedural objections to the SBREFA process raised by other commenters included concerns about the make-up of the SBREFA panel and whether it was representative of the small entities who would be most affected by the proposal; the timing of SBREFA meetings; the administration and management of SBREFA-related phone calls; the overall ``sufficiency'' of the process; and unheeded requests to convene additional Panel sessions or to conduct additional research on specific topics. One trade group commenter incorporated portions of a comment letter from a SER that was sent to the Bureau during the SBREFA process, which raised a number of procedural objections. Another stated the panel excluded open-end lenders. Some expressed concern that the process did not provide them adequate time to realize the full ramifications of the proposed rule and the effects it would have on their business activity. Others suggested that the process was flawed because the Bureau's analysis allegedly ignored the rule's potential costs. One commenter also suggested that the SBREFA process was tainted by the Bureau Director's public comments regarding small-dollar lending in the years preceding the rulemaking.

    Some commenters noted that the SBREFA process had been effective in considering and responding to certain concerns, including input regarding PAL loans and checking customer borrowing history.

    Responses to Comments. The Bureau disagrees with commenters arguing that the Bureau did not adequately consider the suggestions of SERs and the Panel. In the proposed rule, the Bureau modified certain aspects of the approach in the Small Business Review Panel Outline in response to feedback from SERs (and others). For example, the Outline included a 60-day cooling-off period after sequences of three short-term loans, but the proposed rule included a 30-day cooling-off period, and that change is retained in the final rule. In addition, the Bureau followed the Panel's recommendation to request comment on numerous specific issues. The feedback received by the Bureau also informed its decision to revise various aspects of the rule. For example, as discussed below, the Bureau revised the ability-to-repay requirements in a number of ways to provide greater flexibility and reduce the compliance burden, such as by not requiring income verification if evidence is not reasonably available. In addition, the rule no longer requires lenders to verify or develop estimates of rental housing expenses based on statistical data. And the Bureau considered all of the alternatives posited by the SERs, as noted where applicable throughout part V and in part VIII. More generally, the Bureau considered and made appropriate modifications to the rule based upon feedback received during the SBREFA process and in response to other feedback provided by the small business community. The Bureau obtained important input through the SBREFA process and all articulated viewpoints were understood--and considered--prior to the promulgation of the final rule.

    The Bureau disagrees with commenters that it did not consider alternative approaches. For example, in the proposal, the Bureau explained why it believed that disclosures would not be sufficient to address the identified harms and why the approaches of various States also appeared to be insufficient to address those harms. The Bureau likewise explains in this final rule its conclusions about why those approaches would not be sufficient.

    The Bureau both agrees and disagrees with various comments from Advocacy, and a fuller treatment of these issues is presented below in part VII, which addresses the potential benefits, costs, and impacts of the final rule, including reductions in access to financial products and services and impacts on rural issues, and in part VIII, which addresses among other things the economic impact of the final rule on small entities, including small businesses. But more briefly here, the Bureau would note that it has made many changes in the final rule to reduce the burdens of the specific underwriting criteria in the ability-to-repay requirements; that Advocacy has stated that it appreciates the modification of the 60-day cooling-off period presented in the SBREFA Panel Outline to the 30-day cooling-off period in the proposed rule and now in the final rule; that Advocacy thanked the Bureau for clarifying that the proposed rule (and now the final rule) will not apply to business loans; that adoption of the conditional exemption from the final rule for alternative loans mitigates its impact on credit unions; that the Bureau did engage in another formal Tribal consultation after release of the proposed rule as Advocacy had urged; that the Bureau had consulted further with a range of State officials prior to finalizing the rule; and that the Bureau has extended the implementation period of the final rule.

    The Bureau also disagrees with commenters who criticized procedural aspects of the SBREFA process. With respect to the composition of the SERs that participated in the SBREFA process, the Bureau followed legal

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    requirements for categorizing which entities qualified as small entities. The Bureau collaborated with the SBA Office of Advocacy so that the SERs included a variety of different types of lenders that could be affected by the rulemaking, ensuring that participants included a geographically diverse group of storefront payday lenders, online lenders, vehicle title lenders, installment lenders, and banks and credit unions. As noted above, to help ensure that the formal Panel meeting would allow for efficient and effective discussion of substantive issues, the Panel convened several telephone conferences before the formal meeting to provide information about the Outline and to obtain information from the SERs.

    The Bureau disagrees, further, with the comments raising more specific procedural objections about the teleconferences and the Panel meeting. The Bureau provided agendas in advance of the calls and extended the length of the calls as needed to ensure that SERs were able to participate and provide feedback. While the Bureau appreciates that some SERs may have desired additional time to consider and provide feedback on the Outline, the Bureau notes that the Panel is required by law to report on the SERs' comments and advice within 60 days after the Panel is convened. The Bureau conducted the process diligently and in accordance with its obligations under the Regulatory Flexibility Act and consistent with prior SBREFA processes.

    With respect to comments suggesting that the Bureau failed to adequately consider the costs and impact on small businesses and in rural areas, the Bureau notes that the costs and impacts were addressed in the notice of proposed rulemaking, and, for the final rule, are addressed in parts VII and VIII.

  14. Consumer Testing

    In developing the disclosures for this rule, the Bureau engaged a third-party vendor, Fors Marsh Group (FMG), to coordinate qualitative consumer testing for the disclosures that were being considered. The Bureau developed several prototype disclosure forms and tested them with participants in one-on-one interviews. Three categories of forms were developed and tested: (1) Origination disclosures that informed consumers about limitations on their ability to receive additional short-term loans; (2) upcoming payment notices that alerted consumers about lenders' future attempts to withdraw money from consumers' accounts; and (3) expired authorization notices that alerted consumers that lenders would no longer be able to attempt to withdraw money from the consumers' accounts. Observations and feedback from the testing were incorporated into the model forms developed by the Bureau.

    Through this testing, the Bureau sought to observe how consumers would interact with and understand prototype forms developed by the Bureau. In late 2015, FMG facilitated two rounds of one-on-one interviews, each lasting 60 minutes. The first round was conducted in September 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the second round was conducted in October 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. At the same time the Bureau released the proposed rule, it also made available a report that FMG had prepared on the consumer testing.\359\ The testing and focus groups were conducted in accordance with OMB Control Number 3170-

    0022. A total of 28 individuals participated in the interviews. Of these 28 participants, 20 self-identified as having used a small-dollar loan within the past two years.

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    \359\ See Fors Marsh Group, ``Qualitative Testing of Small Dollar Loan Disclosures, Prepared for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,'' (Apr. 2016) available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Disclosure_Testing_Report.pdf (for a detailed discussion of the Bureau's consumer testing) (hereinafter FMG Report).

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    Highlights from Interview Findings. FMG asked participants questions to assess how well they understood the information on the forms.

    For the origination forms, the questions focused on whether participants understood that their ability to roll this loan over or take out additional loans may be limited. Each participant reviewed one of two different prototype forms: Either one for loans that would require an ability-to-repay determination (ATR Form) or one for loans that would be offered under the conditional exemption for covered short-term loans (Alternative Loan Form). During Round 1, many participants for both form types recognized and valued information about the loan amount and due date; accordingly, that information was moved to the beginning of all the origination forms for Round 2. For the ATR Forms, few participants in Round 1 understood that the ``30 days'' language was describing a period when future borrowing may be restricted. Instead, several read the language as describing the loan term. In contrast, nearly all participants reviewing the Alternative Loan Form understood that it was attempting to convey that each successive loan they took out after the first in this series had to be smaller than the previous loan, and that after taking out three loans they would not be able to take out another for 30 days. Some participants also reviewed a version of this Alternative Loan Form for when consumers are taking out their third loan in a sequence. The majority of participants who viewed this notice understood it, acknowledging that they would have to wait until 30 days after the third loan was paid off to be considered for another similar loan.

    During Round 2, participants reviewed two new versions of the ATR Form. One adjusted the ``30 days'' phrasing and the other completely removed the ``30 days'' language, replacing it with the phrase ``shortly after this one.'' The Alternative Loan Form was updated with similar rephrasing of the ``30 days'' language. In order to simplify the table, the ``loan date'' column was removed.

    The results in Round 2 were similar to Round 1. Participants reviewing the ATR forms focused on the language notifying them they should not take out this loan if they are unable to pay the full balance by the due date. Information about restrictions on future loans went largely unnoticed. The edits appeared to have a positive impact on comprehension since no participants interpreted either form as providing information on their loan term. There did not seem to be a difference in comprehension between the group with the ``30 days'' version and the group with the ``shortly'' version. As in Round 1, participants who reviewed the Alternative Loan Form noticed and understood the schedule detailing maximum borrowable amounts. These participants understood that the purpose of the Alternative Loan Form was to inform them that any subsequent loans must be smaller.

    Questions for the payment notices focused on participants' ability to identify and understand information about the upcoming payment. Participants reviewed one of two payment notices: An Upcoming Withdrawal Notice or an Unusual Withdrawal Notice. Both forms provided details about the upcoming payment attempt and a payment breakdown table. The Unusual Withdrawal Notice also indicated that the withdrawal was unusual because the payment was higher than the previous withdrawal amount. To obtain feedback on participants' likelihood to open notices delivered in an electronic manner, these notices were presented as a sequence to simulate an email message.

    In Round 1, all participants, based on seeing the subject line in the email

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    inbox, said that they would open the Upcoming Withdrawal email and read it. Nearly all participants said they would consider the email legitimate. They reported having no concerns about the email because they would have recognized the company name, and because it included details specific to their account along with the lender contact information. When shown the full Upcoming Withdrawal Notice, participants understood that the lender would be withdrawing $40 from their account on a particular date. Several participants also pointed out that the notice described an interest-only payment. Round 1 results were similar for the Unusual Withdrawal Notice; all participants who viewed this notice said they would open the email, and all but one participant--who was deterred due to concerns with the appearance of the link's URL--would click on the link leading to additional details. The majority of participants indicated that they would want to read the email right away, because the words ``alert'' and ``unusual'' would catch their attention, and would make them want to determine what was going on and why a different amount was being withdrawn.

    For Round 2, the payment amount was increased because some participants found it too low and would not directly answer questions about what they would do if they could not afford payment. The payment breakdown tables were also adjusted to address feedback about distinguishing between principal, finance charges, and loan balance. The results for both the Upcoming Payment and Unusual Payment Notices were similar to Round 1 in that the majority of participants would open the email, thought it was legitimate and from the lender, and understood the purpose.

    For the consumer rights notice (referred to an ``expired authorization notice'' in the report), FMG asked questions about participant reactions to the notice, participant understanding of why the notice was being sent, and what participants might do in response to the notice information. As with the payment notices, these notices were presented as a sequence to simulate an email message.

    In Round 1, participants generally understood that the lender had tried twice to withdraw money from their account and would not be able to make any additional attempts to withdraw payment. Most participants expressed disappointment with themselves for being in a position where they had two failed payments and interpreted the notice to be a reprimand from the lender.

    For Round 2, the notice was edited to clarify that the lender was prohibited by Federal law from making additional withdrawals. For example, the email subject line was changed from ``Willow Lending can no longer withdraw loan payments from your account'' to ``Willow Lending is no longer permitted to withdraw loan payments from your account.'' Instead of simply saying ``federal law prohibits us from trying to withdraw payment again,'' language was added to both the email message and the full notice saying, ``In order to protect your account, federal law prohibits us from trying to withdraw payment again.'' More information about consumer rights and the CFPB was also added. Some participants in Round 2 still reacted negatively to this notice and viewed it as reflective of something they did wrong. However, several reacted more positively to this prototype and viewed the notice as protection.

    To obtain feedback about consumer preferences on receiving notices through text message, participants were also presented with an image of a text of the consumer rights notice and asked how they would feel about getting this notice by text. Overall, the majority of participants in Round 1 (8 of 13) disliked the idea of receiving notices via text. One of the main concerns was privacy; many mentioned that they would be embarrassed if a text about their loan situation displayed on their phone screen while they were in a social setting. In Round 2, the text image was updated to match the new subject line of the consumer rights notice. The majority (10 of the 14) of participants had a negative reaction to the notification delivered via text message. Despite this, the majority of participants said that they would still open the text message and view the link.

    Most participants (25 out of 28) also listened to a mock voice message of a lender contacting the participant to obtain renewed payment authorization after two payment attempts had failed. In Round 1, most participants reported feeling somewhat intimidated by the voicemail message and were inclined to reauthorize payments or call back based on what they heard. Participants had a similar reaction to the voicemail message in Round 2.

  15. The Bureau's Proposal

    Overview. In June 2016, the Bureau released for public comment a notice of proposed rulemaking on payday, vehicle title, and certain high-cost installment loans, which were referred to as ``covered loans.'' The proposal was published in the Federal Register in July 2016.\360\

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    \360\ 81 FR 47864 (July 22, 2016).

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    Pursuant to its authority under the Dodd-Frank Act,\361\ the Bureau proposed to establish new regulatory provisions to create consumer protections for certain consumer credit products. The proposed rule was primarily grounded on the Bureau's authority to identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices,\362\ but also drew on the Bureau's authority to prescribe rules and make exemptions from such rules as is necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Federal consumer financial laws,\363\ its authority to facilitate supervision of certain non-bank financial service providers (including payday lenders),\364\ and its authority to require disclosures to convey the costs, benefits, and risks of particular consumer financial products or services.\365\

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    \361\ Public Law 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010).

    \362\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1031(b).

    \363\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1022(b).

    \364\ Dodd-Frank Act section 1024(b)(7).

    \365\ 12 U.S.C. 5532.

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    In the proposal, the Bureau stated its concern that lenders that make covered loans have developed business models that deviate substantially from the practices in other credit markets by failing to assess consumers' ability to repay their loans and by engaging in harmful practices in the course of seeking to withdraw payments from consumers' accounts. The Bureau preliminarily concluded that there may be a high likelihood of consumer harm in connection with these covered loans because a substantial population of consumers struggles to repay their loans and find themselves ending up in extended loan sequences. In particular, these consumers who take out covered loans appear to lack the ability to repay them and face one of three options when an unaffordable loan payment is due: Take out additional covered loans, default on the covered loan, or make the payment on the covered loan and fail to meet other major financial obligations or basic living expenses. Many lenders may seek to obtain repayment of covered loans directly from consumers' accounts. The Bureau stated its concern that consumers may be subject to multiple fees and other harms when lenders make repeated unsuccessful attempts to withdraw funds from consumers' accounts.

    Scope of the Proposed Rule. The Bureau's proposal would have applied to two types of covered loans. First, it would have applied to short-term loans

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    that have terms of 45 days or less, including typical 14-day and 30-day payday loans, as well as single-payment vehicle title loans that are usually made for 30-day terms. Second, the proposal would have applied to longer-term loans with terms of more than 45 days that have (1) a total cost of credit that exceeds 36 percent; and (2) either a lien or other security interest in the consumer's vehicle or a form of ``leveraged payment mechanism'' that gives the lender a right to initiate transfers from the consumer's account or to obtain payment through a payroll deduction or other direct access to the consumer's paycheck. Included among covered longer-term loans was a subcategory of loans with a balloon payment, which require the consumer to pay all of the principal in a single payment or make at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment.

    The Bureau proposed to exclude several types of consumer credit from the scope of the proposal, including: (1) Loans extended solely to finance the purchase of a car or other consumer good in which the good secures the loan; (2) home mortgages and other loans secured by real property or a dwelling if recorded or perfected; (3) credit cards; (4) student loans; (5) non-recourse pawn loans; and (6) overdraft services and lines of credit.

    Underwriting Requirements for Covered Short-Term Loans. The proposed rule preliminarily identified it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make a covered short-term loan without reasonably determining that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan, and would have prescribed requirements to prevent the practice. Before making a covered short-term loan, a lender would first be required to make a reasonable determination that the consumer would be able to make the payments on the loan and be able to meet the consumer's other major financial obligations and basic living expenses without needing to re-borrow over the ensuing 30 days. Specifically, a lender would have to:

    Verify the consumer's net income;

    verify the consumer's debt obligations using a national consumer report and, if available, a consumer report from a ``registered information system'' as described below;

    verify the consumer's housing costs or use a reliable method of estimating a consumer's housing expense based on the housing expenses of similarly situated consumers;

    estimate a reasonable amount of basic living expenses for the consumer--expenditures (other than debt obligations and housing costs) necessary for a consumer to maintain the consumer's health, welfare, and ability to produce income;

    project the amount and timing of the consumer's net income, debt obligations, and housing costs for a period of time based on the term of the loan; and

    determine the consumer's ability to repay the loan and continue paying other obligations and basic living expenses for a period of thirty days thereafter based on the lender's projections of the consumer's income, debt obligations, and housing costs and estimate of basic living expenses for the consumer.

    Under certain circumstances, a lender would be required to make further assumptions or presumptions when evaluating a consumer's ability to repay a covered short-term loan. The proposal specified certain assumptions for determining the consumer's ability to repay a line of credit that is a covered short-term loan. In addition, if a consumer were to seek a covered short-term loan within 30 days of a covered short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loan, a lender generally would be required to presume that the consumer is not able to afford the new loan. A lender could overcome the presumption of unaffordability for a new covered short-term loan only if it could document a sufficient improvement in the consumer's financial capacity. Furthermore, a lender would have been prohibited for a period of 30 days from making a covered short-term loan to a consumer who has already taken out three covered short-term loans within 30 days of each other.

    Under the proposal, a lender would also have been allowed to make a covered short-term loan without complying with all the underwriting criteria just specified, as long as the conditionally exempt loan satisfied certain prescribed terms to prevent and mitigate the risks and harms of unaffordable loans leading to extended loan sequences, and the lender confirmed that the consumer met specified borrowing history conditions and provided required disclosures to the consumer. Among other conditions, a lender would have been allowed to make up to three covered short-term loans in short succession, provided that the first loan had a principal amount no larger than $500, the second loan had a principal amount at least one-third smaller than the principal amount on the first loan, and the third loan had a principal amount at least two-thirds smaller than the principal amount on the first loan. In addition, a lender would not have been allowed to make a covered short-

    term loan under the alternative requirements if it would result in the consumer having more than six covered short-term loans during a consecutive 12-month period or being in debt for more than 90 days on covered short-term loans during a consecutive 12-month period. Under the proposal, a lender would not be permitted to take vehicle security in connection with these loans.

    Underwriting Requirements for Covered Longer-Term Loans. The proposed rule would have identified it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make certain covered longer-term loans without reasonably determining that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan. The coverage would have been limited to high-cost loans of this type and for which the lender took a leveraged payment mechanism, including vehicle security. The proposed rule would have prescribed requirements to prevent the practice for these loans, subject to certain exemptions and conditions. Before making a covered longer-term loan, a lender would have had to make a reasonable determination that the consumer has the ability to make all required payments as scheduled. This determination was to be made by focusing on the month in which the payments under the loan would be the highest. The proposed ability-to-repay requirements for covered longer-term loans closely tracked the proposed requirements for covered short-term loans with an added requirement that the lender, in assessing the consumer's ability to repay a longer-term loan, must reasonably account for the possibility of volatility in the consumer's income, obligations, or basic living expenses during the term of the loan.

    The Bureau has determined not to finalize this aspect of the proposal at this time (other than for covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans), and will take any appropriate further action on this subject after the issuance of this final rule.

    Payments Practices Related to Small-Dollar Loans. The proposed rule would have identified it as an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to attempt to withdraw payment from a consumer's account in connection with a covered loan after the lender's second consecutive attempt to withdraw payment from the account has failed due to a lack of sufficient funds, unless the lender obtains from the consumer a new and specific authorization to make further withdrawals from the account. This prohibition on further withdrawal attempts would have applied whether the two failed attempts are initiated through a single payment channel or different channels, such as the

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    automated clearinghouse system and the check network. The proposed rule would have required that lenders provide notice to consumers when the prohibition has been triggered and follow certain procedures in obtaining new authorizations.

    In addition to the requirements related to the prohibition on further payment withdrawal attempts, the proposed rule would require a lender to provide a written notice at least three business days before each attempt to withdraw payment for a covered loan from a consumer's checking, savings, or prepaid account. The notice would have contained key information about the upcoming payment attempt, and, if applicable, alerted the consumer to unusual payment attempts. A lender could provide electronic notices as long as the consumer consented to electronic communications.

    Additional Requirements. The Bureau also proposed to require lenders to furnish to provisionally registered and registered information systems certain information concerning covered loans at loan consummation, any updates to that information over the life of the loan, and certain information when the loan ceases to be outstanding. To be eligible to become a provisionally registered or registered information system, an entity would have to satisfy the eligibility criteria prescribed in the proposed rule. The Bureau proposed a sequential process to allow information systems to be registered and lenders to be ready to furnish at the time the furnishing obligation in the proposed rule would take effect. For most covered loans, registered information systems would provide a reasonably comprehensive record of a consumer's recent and current borrowing. Before making most covered loans, a lender would have been required to obtain and consider a consumer report from a registered information system.

    The proposal would require a lender to establish and follow a compliance program and retain certain records, which included developing and following written policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the proposed requirements. A lender would also be required to retain the loan agreement and documentation obtained for a covered loan, and electronic records in tabular format regarding origination calculations and determinations for a covered loan, for a consumer who qualifies for an exception to or overcomes a presumption of unaffordability for a covered loan, and regarding loan type, terms, payment history, and loan performance. The proposed rule also included an anti-evasion clause and a severability clause.

    Effective Date. The Bureau proposed that, in general, the final rule would become effective 15 months after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. It also proposed that certain provisions necessary to implement the consumer reporting components of the proposal would become effective 60 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register to facilitate an orderly implementation process.

  16. Public Comments on the Proposed Rule

    Overview. Reflecting the broad public interest in this subject, the Bureau received more than 1.4 million comments on the proposed rulemaking. This is the largest comment volume associated with any rulemaking in the Bureau's history. Comments were received from consumers and consumer advocacy groups, national and regional industry trade associations, industry participants, banks, credit unions, nonpartisan research and advocacy organizations, members of Congress, program managers, payment networks, payment processors, fintech companies, Tribal leaders, faith leaders and coalitions of faith leaders, and State and local government officials and agencies. The Bureau received well over 1 million comments from individuals regarding the proposed rule, often describing their own circumstances or those of others known to them in order to illustrate their views, including their perceptions of how the proposed rule might affect their personal financial situations. Some individuals submitted multiple separate comments.

    The Bureau has not attempted to tabulate precise results for how to tally the comments on both sides of the rule. Nor would it be easy to do so in any practical way, and of course some of the comments did not appear to take a side in advocating for or against the rule, though only a small number would fall in this category. Nonetheless, it was possible to achieve a rough approximation that broke down the universe of comments in this manner and the Bureau made some effort to do so. As an approximation, of the total comments submitted, more than 300,000 comments generally approved of the Bureau's proposal or suggested that the Bureau should adopt a rule that is more restrictive of these kinds of loans in some way or other. Over one million comments generally opposed the proposed rule and took the view that its provisions would be too restrictive of these kinds of loans.

    The Bureau received numerous submissions generated through mass mail campaigns and other organized efforts, including signatures on a petition or multiple letters, postcards, emails, or web comments. These campaigns were conducted by opponents and supporters of the proposed rule. The Bureau also received stand-alone comments submitted by a single commenter, individual, or organization.

    Of the approximately 1.4 million comments submitted, a substantial majority were generated by mass-mail campaigns or other organized efforts. In many cases, these submissions contained the same or similar wording. Of those 1.4 million comments, approximately 300,000 were handwritten and often had either the same or similar content or advanced substantially similar themes and arguments. These comments were posted as attachments to the electronic docket at www.regulations.gov.

    For many of the comments that were submitted as part of mass mail campaigns or other organized efforts, a sample comment was posted to the electronic docket at www.regulations.gov, with the total number of such comments received reflected in the docket entries. Accordingly, these comments, whose content is represented on the electronic docket via the sample comment, were not individually posted to the electronic docket at www.regulations.gov.

    In addition, the 1.4 million comments included more than 100,000 signatures or comments contained on petitions, with some petitions containing tens of thousands of signatures. These petitions were posted as attachments to the electronic docket at www.regulations.gov. Whenever relevant to the rulemaking, these submissions and comments were considered in the development of the final rule.

    Form of Submission. As detailed in the proposed rule,\366\ the Bureau accepted comments through four methods: Email, electronic,\367\ regular mail, and hand delivery or courier (including delivery services like FedEx). Approximately 800,000 comments, or roughly 60% of the total, were paper comments received by mail or couriers, while approximately 600,000 (or about 40%) were submitted electronically, either directly to the electronic docket at www.regulations.gov or by email. The electronic submissions included

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    approximately 100,000 scanned paper comments sent as PDF attachments to thousands of emails.

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    \366\ See 81 FR 47863 (July 22, 2016).

    \367\ Electronic submissions were made via http://www.regulations.gov.

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    In addition, the Bureau also processed and considered comments that were received after the comment period had closed, as well as more than 50 ex parte submissions. The ex parte materials were generally presentations and summary memoranda relevant to the rulemaking that were provided to Bureau personnel in the normal course of their work, but outside the procedures for submitting written comments to the rulemaking docket referenced above. They were considered in accordance with the Bureau's established rulemaking procedures governing ex parte materials.

    Materials on the record, including ex parte submissions and summaries of ex parte meetings and telephone conferences, are publicly available at www.regulations.gov. Other relevant information is discussed below as appropriate. In the end, the Bureau considered all of the comments it received about the proposed rule prior to finalizing the rule.

    Stand-Alone Comments. Tens of thousands appear to have been ``stand-alone'' comments--comments that did not appear to have been submitted as part of a mass mail campaign or other organized effort. Nevertheless, many of these stand-alone comments contained language and phrasing that were highly similar to other comments. In addition, pre-

    printed postcards or other form comments with identical language submitted as part of an organized effort sometimes also included additional notations, such as ``we need this product'' or ``don't take this away.'' Some comment submissions also attached material, including copies of news articles, loan applications, loan advertisements, and even personal financial documents.

    Many of the comments from lenders, trade associations, consumer advocacy groups, research and advocacy organizations, and government officials included specific discussion about particular provisions of the proposed rule, and the substantive issues raised in those comments are discussed in connection with those provisions. However, as noted above, a high volume of comments were received from individuals, rather than from such entities (or their official representatives). Many of these individual comments focused on personal experiences rather than legal or financial analysis of the details of the provisions of the proposed rule. The discussion below summarizes what the commenters--

    more than a million in total--had to say to the Bureau about the proposed rule. The comments can be broken into three general categories: (1) Individual comments made about the rule that were more factual in nature regarding the uses and benefits of covered short-term loans; (2) individual comments stating or explaining the grounds on which the commenters opposed the rule, both generally and in more specific respects; and (3) individual comments stating or explaining the grounds on which the commenters supported the rule, again both generally and in more specific respects. The individual comments as so categorized are set forth below, and they have helped inform the Bureau's consideration of the issues involved in deciding whether and how to finalize various aspects of the proposed rule.

    Comments Not Specifically Supporting or Opposing the Rule. Many commenters noted, as a factual matter, the uses they make of covered short-term loans. These uses include: Rent, childcare, food, vacation, school supplies, car payments, power/utility bills, cell phone bills, credit card bills, groceries, medical bills, insurance premiums, student educational costs, daily living costs, gaps between paychecks, money to send back to a home country, necessary credit, to ``make ends meet,'' ``hard times,'' and ``bills.'' In considering these types of comments, the Bureau generally interpreted them as critical of the rule for going too far to regulate covered short-term loans.

    Some individual commenters talked about how they would cover various costs and expenses if the rule caused previously available payday loans to become less available or unavailable. Among the alternatives they cited were credit cards, borrowing from family or friends, incurring NSF or overdraft charges, or seeking bank loans.

    The comments included many suggestions about the consumer financial marketplace that reached beyond the scope of the proposed rule. Some of these comments suggested that the Bureau should regulate interest rates or limit the amounts that could be charged for such loans by imposing a nationwide usury cap.

    Comments Opposing the Proposed Rule. The nature of criticism varied substantially. Some commenters were broadly opposed to the rule without further explanation, while others objected to the government's participation in regulating the activity affected by the rule. Some objected to the means by which the rule was being considered or enacted while others objected to various substantive aspects of the rule. Some commenters combined these various types of criticisms. Unexplained opposition included some very brief comments like ``No'' or ``Are you crazy?''

    Others based their opposition on general anti-government sentiments. Some objected simply to the fact of the rulemaking. These objections included comments like ``I'm against Washington stopping me from getting a loan.'' More specific comments stated that the government should not be in the business of limiting how much people can borrow and that consumers can manage their own funds. Others contended that similar regulatory efforts in other countries had been unsuccessful. Some were opposed on the ground that the proposed rule was too complicated, with a few objecting simply to its length and complexity or its reliance on dated evidence.

    A considerable number of commenters, including some State and local governmental officials, opined that existing State laws and regulations adequately addressed any regulatory need in this area. Some suggested that any regulation of covered short-term loans should be left to the States or that the Bureau should ``work with state governments.'' Some suggested that the Bureau had not adequately consulted with State officials before proposing the rule. And though the specific intent of the comments was not always made clear, some suggested that, either in promulgating or implementing the rule, the Bureau should consult State law and compare different rates and requirements in different States. Some comments were implicitly critical of the proposal, even if not expressly so, when they proposed alternative approaches like the suggestion that the Bureau ``should follow the Florida Model.''

    Many comments were from individuals who indicated they were users of payday loans, were able to reliably pay them back, and objected to new restrictions. Some of those comments came with notations that they had been specifically asked by loan providers to submit such comments. Many opposed the rule in whole or in part. Some supported some parts of the rule and opposed other parts.

    Hundreds of thousands of individuals submitted comments generally supporting the availability of small-dollar loans that would have been covered by the proposed rule. Many but not all were submitted by consumers of these loans, who mentioned their need for access to small loans to address financial issues they faced with paying bills or dealing with unexpected expenses. Certain consumers stated that

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    they could not access other forms of credit and favored the convenience and simplicity of these loans. Many expressed their opposition to caps or limits on the number of times they would be able to borrow money on such loans.

    As noted above, many commenters simply indicated that they like and use payday loans. The Bureau generally understood these comments as expressions of concerns that the proposed rule might or would restrict their access to covered loans. In contending for greater availability of such loans, commenters specifically noted their use of payday loans for a substantial range of financial needs and reasons. They explained that these loans are used to cover, among other financial needs, overdraft fees, the last piece of tuition rather than losing enrollment, a portion of rent so as not to incur a rent penalty, various bills so as to avoid incurring late fees, utilities so they would not be turned off, college student necessities not covered by student loans, and funds to cover a gap in available resources before the next paycheck. Several commenters specifically noted that payday loan costs were cheaper than bank overdraft fees that would otherwise be incurred. Some indicated they had no alternative to payday products because they lacked credit for credit cards and could not borrow from family or friends or relatives.

    Some commenters focused on the favorable environment they experienced in using payday loans, often in juxtaposition to their less welcoming experience with banks. A number of loan providers commented that low-income, non-English speaking immigrants are treated well by those who make these loans to them. Various borrowers related that they have been treated well at payday storefronts and that employees are helpful with their loan applications.

    Others indicated that local communities support local payday lenders and the loans they provide and these lenders in turn are leading small businesspersons in their communities. Others noted that payday lenders often provide other services like check cashing, bill paying, and loading of pre-paid cards, sometimes with no fees. Still others echoed that payday lenders do more than other lenders to help their individual customers, and are all about ``finding a solution'' for the customer. Some commented that payday lenders do not pressure customers to take out loans whereas banks do.

    One commenter noted that even with substantial income, payday loans still provided convenience due to a favorable ongoing relationship with the lender. Others commented more generally that the loans are convenient because they require no application and no credit check, they are easy to get and easy to renew, and they are provided at locations where it is convenient to get a check cashed. One expressly noted that despite the recognized expense of such loans, their availability and convenience made them worth it.

    Various commenters noted that small loans were difficult or impossible to obtain from banks. Others objected that banks require too much personal information when lending funds, like credit checks and references. Some noted that they had a poor credit history or insufficient credit history and therefore could not get loans from banks or credit cards. Some indicated that small-dollar loans may be necessary for assuring available cash flow at some small businesses. These commenters indicated that payday loans are often critical when bank loans have been denied, the business is awaiting customer payments, and funds are needed to make payroll. Some said that alternatives were unsafe or unable to meet their needs. Others claimed that pawn shops have a bad reputation, that loan sharks might be an available option but for the possible ``outcome,'' and foreign and ``underground'' lenders were not viable options.

    Some merely signed their name to the contents of printed text. Others sometimes added related messages in filling out such forms. Other forms provided space for and encouraged individualized messages and explanations rather than simply presenting uniform prepared text. Some comments opposing the proposed rule were submitted by lender employees, and those comments also ranged fairly widely in the extent of their individualized content; some referred to their fears of losing their jobs if the proposed rule were to become effective in its current form.

    Some of these commenters indicated that payday loan proceeds were used to pay bills for which non-payment would result in penalties or late fees or suspension of vital services; many of them expressed, or seemed implicitly to suggest, concern that the rule would restrict their access to funds for meeting these needs.

    Some commenters discussed general or specific concerns about their understanding of the effect the rule would have without expressly indicating support for or opposition to the rule, though a fair reading of their comments showed them to be expressing concern that the proposed rule would, or might restrict their access to covered loans and thus appeared to be critical of the proposed rule. For example, specific concerns about the perceived negative effects of the rule included its potential effect on the cost of covered loans, including fees and interest rates, restrictions on product availability because of re-borrowing limits, and lack of clarity about what products would replace those made unavailable by the rule. A number of comments expressed concern or confusion about the alternative lending options they would have following the enactment of the rule, and whether these alternatives would be acceptable options.

    Some had very specific concerns about the potential effects of the rule, including a potential lack of liquidity in the market, and expressed a general concern that the rule might lead to increased consumer fraud. Others were concerned about the security of the personal financial information they would have to provide to get a loan. Some expressed concern that the new requirements would lead to loan denials that would hurt their credit scores. Many employees of the lenders affected by the proposed rule were concerned about their continued employment status if the rule were to be adopted.

    Some commenters proposed exclusions from the effects of the rule, either directly or indirectly, indicating, for example, the auto title or credit union loans should be unaffected by the final rule. It was also suggested that there should be a safe harbor if lenders do their own underwriting or engage in income verification. Others suggested that various types of lenders should be excluded from the rule. These included credit unions, on the ground that they make ``responsible'' loans that use the ability to repay as an eligibility screen already, and ``flex loans'' because they are like lines of credit. At least one commenter suggested that the Bureau should exempt FDIC-regulated banks from any coverage under the rule.

    In addition to more general criticisms of the rule, individual commenters also offered objections and concerns about the substantive provisions of the proposed rule. Some were general, like the suggestion that repayment should be more flexible. Others were more focused on specific features of the rule, including claims that the proposed rule would violate existing laws in unspecified ways.

    Many commenters were concerned about the burdens and length of the ``30-day waiting period'' or cooling-off period, noting that they would be

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    unable to access such loans during those periods even if they had an urgent need for funds. Others similarly commented that the various requirements and restrictions would result in loan denials and impede their ability to access needed funds easily and quickly. Many specifically noted the need for funds for unexpected emergencies, like car repairs. Some simply declared these limits ``unwarranted,'' saying that they understood the risks associated with these loans and appreciated their availability nonetheless.

    Some commenters focused on the procedural difficulties of obtaining covered loans under the rule. They objected to the length and detail of the loan application process when funds were needed quickly and easily to cope with emergencies, with car repairs cited frequently. They stated that the process for getting a small-dollar loan should be short and easy and that otherwise it was not worth the effort. Others felt that the proposed rule would require them to disclose too much information about their income and expenses, which would invade their privacy. Some stated that credit checks should not be required for small-dollar loans. Still others expressed concern that the government should not be able to demand such information or require that borrowers provide it.

    A few commenters noted that it would be hard for lenders to comply with the rule, which would impose additional compliance costs. A few specifically suggested that the Bureau should consider having lenders use the State databases that lenders must currently use rather than the approach laid out in the proposed rule.

    Finally, though the vast majority of critical comments opposed the proposed rule and the restrictions it would impose, a substantial number of individual commenters were critical because they did not believe the rule went far enough or imposed enough restrictions. These included views that allowing consumers to receive as many as six loans a year or more would sink them into further debt, that ``big banks'' would benefit from the rule, or that the rule should ``go after big banks'' rather than smaller payday lenders. Many critics of the proposed rule stated that it should more directly impose a cap on interest rates, as many States have done and as has proved effective in limiting the making of these kinds of loans. Others suggested that the proposed rule could have ``unintended consequences,'' though without clearly explaining what those consequences might be, and that more should be done to prevent them.

    Comments Supporting the Proposed Rule. Many individuals submitted comments that either supported the thrust of the proposed rule or argued that it needed to be strengthened in particular ways to accomplish its purposes. Some were submitted by consumers of these loans, and others were submitted through groups such as nonprofit organizations or coalitions of faith leaders who organized the presentation of their individual stories. Many were submitted as part of campaigns organized by consumer advocacy groups and a variety of nonprofit organizations concerned about the dangers they perceived to flow from these types of loans. These comments tended to dwell on the risks and financial harms that many consumers incur from small-dollar loans. These accounts consistently centered on those borrowers who find themselves ending up in extended loan sequences and bearing the negative collateral consequences of re-borrowing, delinquency, and default, especially the inability to keep up with their other major financial obligations and the loss of control over their budgetary decisions. Many of these commenters cited the special risks posed by loans that are extended without a reasonable determination of the consumer's ability to repay the loan without re-borrowing. Some went further and urged that such loans be outlawed altogether based on their predatory nature and the extremely high costs to consumers of most of these loan products.

    Some of these comments described their first-hand experiences with extended loan sequences and the financial harms that had resulted either to themselves or to friends or family members. Some colored their accounts with considerable anger and frustration about these experiences, how they were treated, and the effects that these loans had in undermining or ruining their financial situations.

    Many comments were generated or collected by faith leaders and faith groups, with individuals often presenting their views in terms of moral considerations, as well as financial effects. Some of these comments cited scripture and offered religiously based objections to covered loan activity, with particular opposition to the high interest rates associated with covered loans. Others, without necessarily grounding their concerns in a specific religious orientation, noted that current covered loans harm certain financially vulnerable populations, including the elderly, low-income consumers, and single mothers. They also recounted efforts they and others had made to develop so-called ``rescue'' products to extricate members of their congregations from the cumulative harms of extended loan sequences. Some employees of lenders, especially credit unions, offered views in favor of the proposed rule based on what they had seen of the negative experiences that their customers had encountered with these types of loans.

    Many commenters who favored the proposed rule dwelled on their concerns about the risks posed by the types of covered loans that are currently available to consumers. Overall, these comments tended to focus on the risks and financial harms that many consumers incur when using short-term small-dollar loans. They expressed concerns about borrowers who find themselves in extended loan sequences and bearing increasingly negative effects as a result. Commenters often stressed that these situations left consumers unable to keep up with other major financial obligations and that they lost control over their personal budgetary decisions.

    Like the favorable comments regarding current payday loan activity--which the Bureau understood to be critical of the proposed rule--critics of current covered loan practices did not always specify their views about the proposed rule. Nonetheless, absent specific indications to the contrary, comments that were critical of current payday lending activity were understood to be supportive of the proposed rule as an effective potential response to those concerns.

    Some comments simply indicated a general policy view that there was a need to ``stop the debt trap'' or that rollover loans were ``out of hand.'' Others objected to the perception that covered loans are ``geared to people with fixed incomes.'' Many opposed what they viewed as the common situation that these loans were unaffordable and put people in a position in which they are unable to pay off the principal and must roll over the loans to avoid default.

    Some comments focused on the specific consumer protective nature of the proposed rule, indicating that the rule was needed because current lenders do not care about people's ability to repay the loans, knowing that they can profit from continuing re-borrowing. A handful of comments from current or former employees of such lenders said they supported the proposed rule because of the negative experiences they had seen their customers encounter with these types of loans. One commenter opined that even NSF fees were less damaging to consumers than

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    the cumulative effects of these loans, with the fees they imposed and frequency with which they landed many consumers in continued debt traps.

    Many others commenting on these types of loans indicated that their ``debt trap'' nature was reinforced in the context of vehicle loans, since repossession of a vehicle could dramatically deepen the downward debt spiral. Still, one commenter argued that even the repossession of the borrower's vehicle might not be as bad as the continuing predicament of self-perpetuating loan sequences with their escalating fees and loan balances.

    Some indicated that other loans were better alternatives to payday loans, sometimes citing PAL loans in this regard. And some were concerned about the character of the lenders associated with covered loans, with one comment relating that a recent payday lender had been indicted for illegal conduct associated with payday lending.

    Some individual commenters indicated that they were representatives of or otherwise affiliated with national consumer organizations, and other national organizations, and were supportive of the rule. Some commenters noted that they were current payday loan borrowers working to pay off their loans and were supportive of the rule. Others supported the rule based on their own generally negative personal experiences with covered loans, with some specifying that they only supported the rule as applied to lenders that made loans without determining whether borrowers had the ability to repay them.

    Many individual commenters indicated support for time limits on these loans and the proposed ``cooling-off period'' because they believed it would ultimately help consumers better manage their funds. Some thought that the rule would have the effect of lowering interest rates.

    Some individual commenters who identified themselves as State officials, including individual legislators, commented that the rule would favorably supplement existing statutes that dealt with covered loans in their respective States. Individuals affiliated with some industry groups indicated their general support for the rule, but expressed concern that, in unexplained ways, the rule may go ``too far.'' In contrast, others recommended that the standards in the proposed rule should be applied in the context of all consumer lending rather than just in this market.

    The Bureau's Consideration of Individual Comments. Although the specific treatment of discrete issues is addressed more fully in part V below, which presents the section-by-section analysis explaining the components of the final rule, it may be useful here to provide some of the uses that the Bureau made of the individual comments. First, it is a notable and commendable fact that over a million individual commenters would take the time and effort to respond to the Bureau with their thoughts and reactions, both pro and con, to this proposed rule. Public comments are not just an obligatory part of the rulemaking process required by the Administrative Procedure Act, they are welcome as a means of providing insight and perspective in fashioning such rules. Perhaps needless to say, that inviting solicitation was put to the test here.

    As noted earlier, many of the individual comments turned out to be duplicative and redundant of one another. In part, that was because both the industry groups, on the one side, and the consumer and community groups, on the other side, employed campaigns to solicit large numbers of individual comments. The Bureau does not view any of those efforts as improper or illegitimate, and it has not discounted any comments on their merits as a result of their apparent origins. It did create challenges, however, for figuring out how to manage this large volume of comments--how to receive and process them, how to handle and organize them, and how to review and consider them. In the end, the Bureau proceeded as laid out in its earlier discussion in this section, and though the process took many months and considerable effort, it was eventually completed in a satisfactory way.

    The Bureau also does not view the repetition and redundancy among many of the comments as being immaterial. The Bureau considered not only what views the public has, but how intensely they are felt and maintained. The Bureau has frequently noted, in its handling of consumer complaints, that when the same concern arises more frequently, it may reflect an emerging pattern and be worthy of more attention than if the same concern arises only once or twice and thus appears to reflect a more isolated set of circumstances. The same may be true here, with the caveat that, depending on the circumstances, comments generated primarily through campaigns may or may not truly reflect any widespread or deeply felt convictions, depending on the level of the individual's actual involvement.

    Having said that, the processes that Congress has created for Federal administrative rulemaking, both in the Administrative Procedure Act generally and here in the Dodd-Frank Act in particular, were not designed or intended to be governed by some rough assessment of majority vote or even majority sentiment. While rough estimates of pro and con submissions are provided above, the Bureau has simply sought to understand the consumer experiences reported in these comments and address the substance of these comments on their merits.

    As a general matter, the individual comments have helped inform the Bureau's understanding of factual matters surrounding the circumstances and use of covered loans. In the sections on Market Concerns--

    Underwriting and Market Concerns--Payments, they helped add depth and content to the Bureau's description of issues such as borrower characteristics, the circumstances of borrowing, their expectations of and experience with extended loan sequences, including harms they have suffered as a consequence of delinquency, default, and loss of control over budgeting. Many of these concerns were already known at the outset of the rule-writing process, as a result of extensive outreach and feedback the Bureau has received on the subject, as well as through the research that the Bureau and others have performed on millions of covered loans, all of which is discussed above.

    Nonetheless, the Bureau's review of large numbers of individual comments has reinforced certain points and prompted further consideration of others. For example, many individuals stated great concern that the proposed rule would make the underwriting process for small-dollar loans too burdensome and complex. They commented positively on the speed and convenience of obtaining such loans, and were concerned that the process described in the proposed rule would lead to fewer such loans being offered or made. This has influenced the Bureau's consideration of the details of the underwriting process addressed in Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule and contributed to the Bureau's decision to modify various aspects of that process. At the same time, many other individual commenters had much to say about the perils of extended loan sequences and how they had harmed either themselves or others, which helped underscore the need for the Bureau to finalize a framework that would be sufficiently protective of consumers. In particular, many commenters supported the general requirement that lenders must reasonably assess the borrower's ability to repay before making a loan according

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    to specific underwriting criteria, and that limited exceptions to those criteria would be made only where other conditions applied to ensure that lenders would not end up in extended loan sequences. There are also many other places in the Bureau's discussion and explanation of the final rule where individual comments played a role in the Bureau's analysis.

    Further Inter-Agency Consultation. In addition to the inter-agency consultation that the Bureau engaged in prior to issuing the notice of proposed rulemaking, pursuant to section 1022(b)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau has consulted further with the appropriate prudential regulators and the FTC during the comment process. As a result of these consultations, the Bureau has made a number of changes to the rule and has provided additional explanation for various determinations it has made about the provisions of the rule, which have been discussed with the other regulators and agencies during the consultation process.

    Ex Parte Submissions. In addition, the Bureau considered the comments it received after the comment period had closed, as well as other input from more than 50 ex parte submissions, meetings, and telephone conferences.\368\ All such materials in the record are available to the public at http://www.regulations.gov. Relevant information received is discussed below in the section-by-section analysis and subsequent parts of this notice, as applicable. The Bureau considered all the comments it received about the proposal, made certain modifications, and is adopting the final rule as described more fully in part V below.

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    \368\ See also Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Bulletin 11-3, CFPB Policy on Ex Parte Presentations in Rulemaking Proceedings,'' (Aug. 16, 2011), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/2011/08/Bulletin_20110819_ExPartePresentationsRulemakingProceedings.pdf, updated and revised, Policy on Ex Parte Presentations in Rulemaking Proceedings, 82 FR 18687 (Apr. 21, 2017).

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    IV. Legal Authority

    The Bureau is issuing this final rule pursuant to its authority under the Dodd-Frank Act. The rule relies on rulemaking and other authorities specifically granted to the Bureau by the Dodd-Frank Act, as discussed below.

  17. Section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act

    Section 1031(b)--The Bureau's Authority To Identify and Prevent UDAAPs

    Section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides the Bureau with authority to prescribe rules to identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, or UDAAPs. Specifically, section 1031(b) of the Act authorizes the Bureau to prescribe rules ``applicable to a covered person or service provider identifying as unlawful unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in connection with any transaction with a consumer for a consumer financial product or service, or the offering of a consumer financial product or service.'' Section 1031(b) of the Act further provides that, ``Rules under this section may include requirements for the purpose of preventing such acts or practice.''

    There are notable similarities between the Dodd-Frank Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) provisions relating to unfair and deceptive acts or practices. Accordingly, these FTC Act provisions, and case law and Federal agency rulemakings relying on them, inform the scope and meaning of the Bureau's rulemaking authority with respect to unfair and deceptive acts or practices under section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act.\369\

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    \369\ Section 18 of the FTC Act similarly authorizes the FTC to prescribe ``rules which define with specificity acts or practices which are unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce'' and provides that such rules ``may include requirements prescribed for the purpose of preventing such acts or practices.'' 15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B). As discussed below, the Dodd-Frank Act, unlike the FTC Act, also permits the Bureau to prescribe rules identifying and preventing ``abusive'' acts or practices.

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    Courts evaluating exercise of agency rulemaking authority under the unfairness and deception standards of the FTC Act have held that there must be a ``reasonable relation'' between the act or practice identified as unlawful and the remedy chosen by the agency.\370\ The Bureau agrees with this approach and therefore maintains it is reasonable to interpret section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act to permit the imposition of requirements to prevent acts or practices that are identified by the Bureau as unfair or deceptive, as long as the preventive requirements being imposed by the Bureau have a reasonable relation to the identified acts or practices.

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    \370\ See Am. Fin. Servs. Ass'n v. FTC, 767 F.2d 957, 988 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (AFSA) (holding that the FTC ``has wide latitude for judgment and the courts will not interfere except where the remedy selected has no reasonable relation to the unlawful practices found to exist'' (citing Jacob Siegel Co. v. FTC, 327 U.S. 608, 612-13 (1946)).

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    The Bureau likewise maintains that it is reasonable to interpret section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act to provide that same degree of discretion to the Bureau with respect to the imposition of requirements to prevent acts or practices that are identified by the Bureau as abusive. Throughout this rulemaking process, the Bureau has relied on and applied this interpretation in formulating and designing requirements to prevent acts or practices identified as unfair or abusive.

    Section 1031(c)--Unfair Acts or Practices

    Section 1031(c)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that the Bureau shall have no authority under section 1031 to declare an act or practice in connection with a transaction with a consumer for a consumer financial product or service, or the offering of a consumer financial product or service, to be unlawful on the grounds that such act or practice is unfair, unless the Bureau ``has a reasonable basis'' to conclude that: The act or practice causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers; and such substantial injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.\371\ Section 1031(c)(2) of the Act provides that, ``in determining whether an act or practice is unfair, the Bureau may consider established public policies as evidence to be considered with all other evidence. Such public policy considerations may not serve as a primary basis for such determination.'' \372\

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    \371\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(c)(1).

    \372\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(c)(2).

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    In sum, the unfairness standard under section 1031(c) of the Dodd-

    Frank Act requires primary consideration of three elements: The presence of a substantial injury, the absence of consumers' ability to reasonably avoid the injury, and the countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition associated with the act or practice. The Dodd-Frank Act also permits secondary consideration of public policy objectives.

    As noted above, the unfairness provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act are similar to the unfairness standard under the FTC Act.\373\ That standard was developed, in part, when in 1994, Section 5(n) of the FTC Act was amended to incorporate the principles set forth in the FTC's December 17, 1980 ``Commission Statement of Policy on the

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    Scope of Consumer Unfairness Jurisdiction'' (the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness).\374\

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    \373\ Section 5(n) of the FTC Act, as amended in 1994, provides that, the FTC shall have no authority to declare unlawful an act or practice on the grounds that such act or practice is unfair unless the act or practice causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers themselves and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition. In determining whether an act or practice is unfair, the FTC may consider established public policies as evidence to be considered with all other evidence. Such public policy considerations may not serve as a primary basis for such determination. 15 U.S.C. 45(n).

    \374\ Letter from the FTC to Hon. Wendell Ford and Hon. John Danforth, Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, United States Senate, Commission Statement of Policy on the Scope of Consumer Unfairness Jurisdiction (December 17, 1980), reprinted in In re Int'l Harvester Co., 104 F.T.C. 949, 1070 (1984) (Int'l Harvester). See also S. Rept. 103-130, at 12-13 (1993) (legislative history to FTC Act amendments indicating congressional intent to codify the principles of the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness).

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    Due to the similarities between unfairness provisions in the Dodd-

    Frank and FTC Acts, the scope and meaning of the Bureau's authority under section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act to issue rules that identify and prevent acts or practices that the Bureau determines are unfair pursuant to section 1031(c) of the Dodd-Frank Act are naturally informed by the FTC Act unfairness standard, the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, FTC and other Federal agency rulemakings,\375\ and related case law. The Bureau believes it is reasonable to interpret section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act consistent with the specific positions discussed in this section on Legal Authority. The Bureau's interpretations are based on its expertise with consumer financial products, services, and markets, and its experience with implementing this provision in supervisory and enforcement actions. The Bureau also generally finds persuasive the reasons provided by the authorities supporting these positions as discussed in this section.

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    \375\ In addition to the FTC's rulemakings under unfairness authority, certain Federal prudential regulators have prescribed rules prohibiting unfair practices under section 18(f)(1) of the FTC Act and, in doing so, they applied the statutory elements consistent with the standards articulated by the FTC. The Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and the OCC also issued guidance generally adopting these standards for purposes of enforcing the FTC Act's prohibition on unfair and deceptive acts or practices. See 74 FR 5498, 5502 (Jan. 29, 2009) (background discussion of legal authority for interagency Subprime Credit Card Practices rule).

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    Substantial Injury

    The first element required for a determination of unfairness under section 1031(c)(1) of the Dodd- Frank Act is that the act or practice causes, or is likely to cause, substantial consumer injury. As noted above, Bureau rulemaking regarding the meaning of the elements of this unfairness standard is informed by the FTC Act unfairness standard, the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, FTC and other Federal agency rulemakings, and related case law.

    The FTC noted in the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness that substantial injury ordinarily involves monetary harm, and that trivial or speculative harms are not cognizable under the test for substantial injury.\376\ The FTC also noted that an injury is ``sufficiently substantial'' if it consists of a small amount of harm to a large number of individuals or if it raises a significant risk of harm.\377\

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    \376\ See FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. 949, 1073 (1984). For example, in the Higher-Priced Mortgage Loan (HPML) Rule, the Federal Reserve Board concluded that a borrower who cannot afford to make the loan payments as well as payments for property taxes and homeowners insurance because the lender did not adequately assess the borrower's ability to repay suffers substantial injury, due to the various costs associated with missing mortgage payments (e.g., large late fees, impairment of credit records, foreclosure related costs). See 73 FR 44522, 44541-

    42 (July 30, 2008).

    \377\ See FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1073 n.12.

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    In addition, the FTC has also found that substantial injury may involve a large amount of harm experienced by a small number of individuals.\378\ And while the FTC has said that emotional impact and other more subjective types of harm ordinarily will not constitute substantial injury,\379\ the D.C. Circuit held that psychological harm can form part of the substantial injury along with financial harm.\380\

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    \378\ See Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1064.

    \379\ See FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1073.

    \380\ See AFSA, 767 F.2d at 973-74, n.20 (1985) (discussing the potential psychological harm resulting from lenders' taking of non-

    possessory security interests in household goods and associated threats of seizure, which was part of the FTC's rationale for intervention in the Credit Practices Rule).

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    Not Reasonably Avoidable

    The second element required for a determination of unfairness under section 1031(c)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act is that the substantial injury is not reasonably avoidable by consumers. Again, the FTC Act unfairness standard, the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, FTC and other Federal agency rulemakings, and related case law inform the meaning of this element of the unfairness standard.

    The FTC has noted that knowing the steps for avoiding injury is not enough for the injury to be reasonably avoidable; rather, the consumer must also understand the necessity of taking those steps.\381\ As the FTC explained in its Policy Statement on Unfairness, most unfairness matters are brought to ``halt some form of seller behavior that unreasonably creates or takes advantage of an obstacle to the free exercise of consumer decision making.'' \382\ The D.C. Circuit held that such behavior can create a ``market failure'' and the agency ``may be required to take corrective action.'' \383\ Reasonable avoidability also takes into account the costs of making a choice other than the one made and the availability of alternatives in the marketplace.\384\

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    \381\ See Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1066.

    \382\ FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1074.

    \383\ AFSA, 767 F.2d at 976. The D.C. Circuit noted that Congress intended for the FTC to develop and refine the criteria for unfairness on a ``progressive, incremental'' basis. Id. at 978. The court upheld the FTC's Credit Practices Rule by reasoning in part that ``the fact that the FTC's analysis applies predominantly to certain creditors dealing with a certain class of consumers (lower-

    income, higher-risk borrowers) does not, as the dissent suggests, undercut its validity. There is a market failure with respect to a particular category of credit transactions which is being exploited by the creditors involved to the detriment of the consumers involved.'' Id. at 982 n.29.

    \384\ See FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1074 n.19 (``In some senses any injury can be avoided--for example, by hiring independent experts to test all products in advance, or by private legal actions for damages--but these courses may be too expensive to be practicable for individual consumers to pursue.''); AFSA, 767 F.2d at 976-77 (reasoning that because of factors such as substantial similarity of contracts, ``consumers have little ability or incentive to shop for a better contract'').

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    Countervailing Benefits to Consumers or Competition

    The third element required for a determination of unfairness under section 1031(c)(1) of the Dodd- Frank Act is that the act or practice's countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition do not outweigh the substantial consumer injury. Once again, the FTC Act unfairness standard, the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, FTC and other Federal agency rulemakings, and related case law inform the meaning of this element of the unfairness standard.

    In applying the FTC Act's unfairness standard, the FTC has stated that it is important to consider both the costs of imposing a remedy and any benefits that consumers enjoy as a result of the practice.\385\ Authorities addressing the FTC Act's unfairness standard indicate that the countervailing benefits test does not require a precise quantitative analysis of benefits and costs, because such an analysis may be unnecessary or, in some cases, impossible. Rather, the agency is expected to gather and

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    consider reasonably available evidence.\386\

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    \385\ See FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1073-74 (noting that an unfair practice must be ``injurious in its net effects'' and that ``the Commission also takes account of the various costs that a remedy would entail. These include not only the costs to the parties directly before the agency, but also the burdens on society in general in the form of increased paperwork, increased regulatory burdens on the flow of information, reduced incentives to innovation and capital formation, and similar matters.'').

    \386\ See S. Rept. 103-130, at 13 (1994) (legislative history for the 1994 amendments to the FTC Act noting that, ``In determining whether a substantial consumer injury is outweighed by the countervailing benefits of a practice, the Committee does not intend that the FTC quantify the detrimental and beneficial effects of the practice in every case. In many instances, such a numerical benefit-

    cost analysis would be unnecessary; in other cases, it may be impossible. This section would require, however, that the FTC carefully evaluate the benefits and costs of each exercise of its unfairness authority, gathering and considering reasonably available evidence.''); Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Ass'n v. FTC, 41 F.3d 81, 91 (3d Cir. 1994) (in upholding the FTC's amendments to the Funeral Industry Practices Rule, the Third Circuit noted that ``much of a cost-benefit analysis requires predictions and speculation''); Int'l Harvester, 104 F.T.C. at 1065 n.59 (``In making these calculations we do not strive for an unrealistic degree of precision . . . . We assess the matter in a more general way, giving consumers the benefit of the doubt in close issues . . . . What is important . . . is that we retain an overall sense of the relationship between costs and benefits. We would not want to impose compliance costs of millions of dollars in order to prevent a bruised elbow.'').

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    Public Policy

    As noted above, section 1031(c)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that, ``in determining whether an act or practice is unfair, the Bureau may consider established public policies as evidence to be considered with all other evidence. Such public policy considerations may not serve as a primary basis for such determination.'' \387\

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    \387\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(c)(2).

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    Section 1031(d)--Abusive Acts or Practices

    The Dodd-Frank Act, in section 1031(b), authorizes the Bureau to identify and prevent abusive acts and practices. The Bureau believes that Congress intended for the statutory phrase ``abusive acts or practices'' to encompass conduct by covered persons that is beyond what would be prohibited as unfair or deceptive acts or practices, although such conduct could overlap and thus satisfy the elements for more than one of the standards.\388\

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    \388\ See, e.g., S. Rept. No. 111-176, at 172 (Apr. 30, 2010) (``Current law prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The addition of `abusive' will ensure that the Bureau is empowered to cover practices where providers unreasonably take advantage of consumers.''); Public Law 111-203 (listing, in the preamble to the Dodd- Frank Act, one of the purposes of the Act as ``protecting consumers from abusive financial services practices'').

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    Under section 1031(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau ``shall have no authority . . . to declare an act or practice abusive in connection with the provision of a consumer financial product or service'' unless the act or practice meets at least one of several enumerated conditions. For example, under section 1031(d)(2)(A) of the Act, an act or practice might ``take unreasonable advantage of'' a consumer's ``lack of understanding . . . of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the consumer financial product or service'' (i.e., the lack of understanding prong).\389\ Under section 1031(d)(2)(B) of the Act, an act or practice might ``take unreasonable advantage of'' the ``inability of the consumer to protect the interests of the consumer in selecting or using a consumer financial product or service'' (i.e., the inability to protect prong).\390\ The Dodd-Frank Act does not further elaborate on the meaning of these terms, leaving it to the Bureau to interpret and apply these standards.

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    \389\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(2)(A).

    \390\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(2)(B). The Dodd-Frank Act's abusiveness standard also permits the Bureau to intervene under section 1031(d)(1) if the Bureau determines that an act or practice ``materially interferes with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or condition of a consumer financial product or service,'' 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(1), and under section 1031(d)(2)(C) if an act or practice ``takes unreasonable advantage of'' the consumer's ``reasonable reliance'' on the covered person to act in the consumer's interests, 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(2)(C).

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    Although the legislative history on the meaning of the Dodd-Frank Act's abusiveness standard is fairly limited, it suggests that Congress was particularly concerned about the widespread practice of lenders making unaffordable loans to consumers. A primary focus was on unaffordable home mortgages and mortgages made without adequate or responsible underwriting.\391\

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    \391\ While Congress sometimes described other products as abusive, it frequently applied the term to unaffordable mortgages and mortgages made without adequate or responsible underwriting. See, e.g., S. Rept. No. 111-176, at 11 (noting that the ``financial crisis was precipitated by the proliferation of poorly underwritten mortgages with abusive terms'').

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    However, there is some indication that Congress also intended the Bureau to use the authority under section 1031(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act to address payday lending through the Bureau's rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement authorities. For example, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs report on the Senate version of the legislation listed payday loans as one of several categories of consumer financial products and services, other than mortgages, where ``consumers have long faced problems'' because they lack ``adequate Federal rules and enforcement,'' noting further that ``abusive lending, high and hidden fees, unfair and deceptive practices, confusing disclosures, and other anti-consumer practices have been a widespread feature in commonly available consumer financial products such as credit cards.'' \392\ The same section of the Senate committee report included a description of the basic features of payday loans and the problems associated with them, specifically noting that many consumers are unable to repay the loans while meeting their other obligations and that many of these borrowers re-borrow, which results in a ``perpetual debt treadmill.'' \393\ These portions of the legislative history reinforce other indications in the Dodd-Frank Act that Congress consciously intended to confer direct authority upon the Bureau to address issues concerning payday loans.\394\

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    \392\ See S. Rept. 111-176, at 17. In addition to credit cards, the Senate committee report listed overdraft, debt collection, payday loans, and auto dealer lending as the consumer financial products and services warranting concern. Id. at 17-23.

    \393\ See S. Rept. 111-176, 20-21; see also 155 Cong. Rec. 31250 (Dec. 10, 2009) (during a colloquy on the House floor with the one of the authors of the Dodd-Frank Act, Representative Barney Frank, Representative Henry Waxman stated that the ``authority to pursue abusive practices helps ensure that the agency can address payday lending and other practices that can result in pyramiding debt for low income families.'').

    \394\ Section 1024(a)(1)(E) of the Dodd-Frank Act also expressly confers authority upon the Bureau to take specific acts concerning ``any covered person who . . . offers or provides to a consumer a payday loan.'' These include the use of supervisory authority to ``conduct examinations'' for the purpose of ``assessing compliance with the requirements of Federal consumer financial law,'' to exercise ``exclusive'' authority to ``enforce Federal consumer financial law,'' and to exercise ``exclusive'' authority to ``issue regulations'' for the purpose of ``assuring compliance with Federal consumer financial law.'' Congress conferred this authority only for a defined and limited universe of consumer financial products--

    payday loans, mortgage loans, and student loans--and in certain other specified instances, thus indicating its intent to empower the Bureau to consider and carry out broad regulatory and oversight activity with respect to the market for payday loans, in particular.

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  18. Section 1032 of the Dodd-Frank Act

    Section 1032(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that the Bureau may prescribe rules to ensure that the features of any consumer financial product or service, ``both initially and over the term of the product or service,'' are ``fully, accurately, and effectively disclosed to consumers in a manner that permits consumers to understand the costs, benefits, and risks associated with the product or service, in light of the facts and circumstances.'' \395\ This authority is broad, and empowers the Bureau to prescribe rules regarding the disclosure of the ``features'' of consumer financial products and services generally.

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    \395\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(a).

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    Accordingly, the Bureau may prescribe rules containing disclosure requirements even if other Federal

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    consumer financial laws do not specifically require disclosure of such features. Section 1032(c) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that, in prescribing rules pursuant to section 1032 of the Act, the Bureau ``shall consider available evidence about consumer awareness, understanding of, and responses to disclosures or communications about the risks, costs, and benefits of consumer financial products or services.'' \396\

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    \396\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(c).

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    Section 1032(b)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that ``any final rule prescribed by the Bureau under this section requiring disclosures may include a model form that may be used at the option of the covered person for provision of the required disclosures.'' \397\ Section 1032(b)(2) of the Act provides that such a model form ``shall contain a clear and conspicuous disclosure that, at a minimum--(A) uses plain language comprehensible to consumers; (B) contains a clear format and design, such as an easily readable type font; and (C) succinctly explains the information that must be communicated to the consumer.'' \398\

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    \397\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(b)(1).

    \398\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(b)(2).

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    Section 1032(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that any such model form ``shall be validated through consumer testing.'' \399\ And section 1032(d) of the Act provides that, ``Any covered person that uses a model form included with a rule issued under this section shall be deemed to be in compliance with the disclosure requirements of this section with respect to such model form.'' \400\

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    \399\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(b)(3).

    \400\ 12 U.S.C. 5532(d).

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  19. Other Authorities Under the Dodd-Frank Act

    Section 1022(b)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that the Bureau's director ``may prescribe rules and issue orders and guidance, as may be necessary or appropriate to enable the Bureau to administer and carry out the purposes and objectives of the Federal consumer financial laws, and to prevent evasions thereof.'' \401\ ``Federal consumer financial law'' includes rules prescribed under Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act,\402\ including sections 1031(b) to (d) and 1032.

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    \401\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(1).

    \402\ 12 U.S.C. 5481(14).

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    Section 1022(b)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act prescribes certain standards for rulemaking that the Bureau must follow in exercising its authority under section 1022(b)(1) of the Act.\403\ For a discussion of the Bureau's standards for rulemaking under section 1022(b)(2) of the Act, see part VII below.

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    \403\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(2).

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    Section 1022(b)(3)(A) of the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Bureau, by rule, to ``conditionally or unconditionally exempt any class of covered persons, service providers, or consumer financial products or services'' from any provision of Title X or from any rule issued under Title X as the Bureau determines ``necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes and objectives'' of Title X. In doing so, the Bureau must, ``take into consideration the factors'' set forth in section 1022(b)(3)(B) of the Act,\404\ which specifies three factors that the Bureau shall, as appropriate, take into consideration in issuing such an exemption.\405\

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    \404\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(A).

    \405\ Section 1022(b)(3)(B) of the Act provides that in issuing an exemption, as permitted under section 1022(b)(3)(A) of the Act, the Bureau shall, as appropriate, take into consideration: the total assets of the class of covered persons; the volume of transactions involving consumer financial products or services in which the class of covered persons engages; and existing provisions of law which are applicable to the consumer financial product or service and the extent to which such provisions provide consumers with adequate protections. 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(B).

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    Furthermore, Sec. Sec. 1041.10 and 1041.11 of the final rule are authorized by other Dodd-Frank Act authorities, such as sections 1021(c)(3),\406\ 1022(c)(7),\407\ 1024(b)(1),\408\ and 1024(b)(7) of the Act.\409\ A more complete description of the Dodd-Frank Act authorities on which the Bureau is relying for Sec. Sec. 1041.10 and 1041.11 of the final rule is contained in the section-by-section analysis of those provisions.

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    \406\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(c)(3).

    \407\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(c)(7).

    \408\ 12 U.S.C. 5514(b)(1).

    \409\ 12 U.S.C. 5514(b)(7).

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  20. Section 1041 of the Dodd-Frank Act and Preemption

    Section 1041(a)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that Title X of the Act, other than sections 1044 through 1048, ``may not be construed as annulling, altering, or affecting, or exempting any person subject to the provisions of Title X from complying with,'' the statutes, regulations, orders, or interpretations in effect in any State (sometimes hereinafter, State laws), ``except to the extent that any such provision of law is inconsistent with the provisions of Title X, and then only to the extent of the inconsistency.'' \410\ Section 1041(a)(2) of the Act provides that, for purposes of section 1041, ``a statute, regulation, order, or interpretation in effect in any State is not inconsistent with'' the Title X provisions ``if the protection that such statute, regulation, order, or interpretation affords to consumers is greater than the protection provided'' under Title X.\411\ This section further provides that a determination regarding whether a statute, regulation, order, or interpretation in effect in any State is inconsistent with the provisions of Title X may be made by the Bureau on its own motion or in response to a nonfrivolous petition initiated by any interested person.\412\

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    \410\ 12 U.S.C. 5551(a)(1). Section 1002(27) of the Dodd-Frank Act defines ``State'' to include any ``Federally recognized Indian Tribe.'' See 12 U.S.C. 5481(27).

    \411\ 12 U.S.C. 5551(a)(2).

    \412\ 12 U.S.C. 5551(a)(2).

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    The requirements of the final rule set minimum Federal standards for the regulation of covered loans. They thus accord with the common preemption principle that Federal law provides a floor and not a ceiling on consumer financial protection,\413\ as provided in section 1041(a)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act. The requirements of this rule will thus coexist with State laws that pertain to the making of loans that the rule treats as covered loans (hereinafter, ``applicable State laws''). Consequently, any person subject to the final rule will be required to comply with both the requirements of this rule and all applicable State laws, except to the extent that the applicable State laws are inconsistent with the requirements of the rule.\414\ This approach reflects the established framework of cooperative federalism between Federal and State laws in many other substantive areas. Accordingly, the arguments advanced by some commenters that the payday rule would ``occupy the field'' are incorrect. Where Federal law occupies an entire field, ``even complementary State regulation is impermissible'' because field preemption ``forecloses any State regulation in the area, even if it is parallel to Federal standards.'' \415\ This rule would not have that effect.

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    \413\ The Bureau received a comment from a group of State Attorneys General asking the Bureau to codify the statement that this is a floor and not a ceiling. The Bureau does not believe this is necessary, and that it would conflict with the regulatory scheme of the rule, which is primarily aimed at obligations on the part of lenders. This section should suffice for purposes of communicating the Bureau's intent with regard to preemption.

    \414\ The requirements of the final rule will also coexist with applicable laws in cities and other localities, and the Bureau does not intend the rule to annul, alter, affect, or exempt any person from complying with the regulatory frameworks of cities and other localities to the extent those frameworks provide greater consumer protections than the requirements of this rule.

    \415\ Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012).

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    As noted above, section 1041(a)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act specifies that State

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    laws which afford greater consumer protection than is provided under Title X are not inconsistent with the provisions of Title X. Specifically, as discussed in part II, different States have taken different approaches to regulating loans that are treated as covered loans under the final rule, with many States electing to permit the making of such loans according to varying conditions, and other States choosing not to do so by imposing usury caps that effectively render it impractical to make such loans in those States.

    Particularly in the States where fixed usury caps effectively prohibit these types of loans, nothing in this rule is intended or should be construed to undermine or cast doubt on whether those provisions are sound public policy. Because Title X does not confer authority on the Bureau to establish usury limits,\416\ its policy interventions, as embodied in the final rule, are entirely distinct from such measures as are beyond its statutory authority. Therefore, nothing in this rule should be construed as annulling or even as inconsistent with a regulatory or policy approach to such loans based on usury caps, which are wholly within the prerogative of the States to lawfully impose. Indeed, as described in part II, South Dakota became the most recent State to impose a usury cap on payday loans after conducting a ballot initiative in 2016 in which the public voted to approve the measure by a substantial margin.

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    \416\ Section 1027(o) of the Dodd-Frank Act provides that ``No provision of this title shall be construed as conferring authority on the Bureau to establish a usury limit applicable to an extension of credit offered or made by a covered person to a consumer, unless explicitly authorized by law.'' 12 U.S.C. 5517(o).

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    The requirements of the final rule will coexist with different approaches and frameworks for the regulation of such covered loans as reflected in applicable State laws.\417\ The Bureau is aware of certain applicable State laws that may afford greater protections to consumers than do the requirements of this rule. For example, as described in part II and just discussed above, certain States have fee or interest rate caps (i.e., usury limits) that payday lenders may find are set too low to sustain their business models. The Bureau regards the fee and interest rate caps in these States as providing greater consumer protections than, and thus as not inconsistent with, the requirements of the final rule.

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    \417\ Some State officials expressed concern that the identification of unfair and abusive acts or practices in this rulemaking may be construed to affect or limit provisions in State statutes or State case law. The Bureau has identified unfair and abusive acts or practices under the statutory definitions in section 1031(c) and (d) of the Dodd-Frank Act. The final rule is not intended to limit the further development of State laws protecting consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices as defined under State laws, or from similar conduct prohibited by State laws, consistent with the principles set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act as discussed further above.

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    Aside from those provisions of State law just discussed, the Bureau declines to determine definitively in this rulemaking whether any other individual statute, regulation, order, or interpretation in effect in any State is inconsistent with the rule. Comments on the proposal and internal analysis have led the Bureau to conclude that specific questions of preemption should be decided upon application, and the Bureau will respond to nonfrivolous petitions initiated by interested persons in accordance with section 1041(a)(2) of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Bureau believes that in most cases entities can apply the principles articulated above in a straightforward manner to determine their rights and obligations under both the rule and State law. Moreover, in light of the variety of relevant State law provisions and the range of practices that may be covered by those laws, it is impossible for the Bureau to provide a definitive description of all interactions or to anticipate all areas of potential concern.

    Some commenters argued that because section 1041 of the Dodd-Frank Act includes only the term ``this title,'' and not ``any rule or order prescribed by the Bureau under this title,'' Congress contemplated only statutory and not regulatory preemption of State law. The Bureau disagrees and believes section 1041 is best interpreted to apply to Title X and rules prescribed by the Bureau under that Title. Section 1041 was modeled in large part on similar provisions from certain enumerated consumer laws. Consistent with longstanding case law holding that State laws can be pre-empted by Federal regulations promulgated in the exercise of delegated authority,\418\ those provisions were definitively interpreted to apply to requirements imposed by implementing regulations, even where the statutory provisions include explicit reference only to the statutes themselves.\419\ Congress is presumed to have been aware of those applications in enacting Title X, and section 1041 is best interpreted similarly. Moreover, the Bureau's interpretation furthers principles of consistency, uniformity, and manageability in interpreting Title X and legislative rules with the force and effect of law implementing that statute. Finally, while section 1041 of the Act instructs preemption analyses, any actual pre-

    emptive force derives from the substantive provisions of Title X and its implementing rules, not from section 1041 itself. A reading that section 1041 would apply only to Title X itself could lead to the conclusion that rules prescribed by the Bureau under Title X have broader preemptive effect than does Title X itself. The better interpretation is that the preemptive effect of regulations exercised under delegated authority should be guided by the provisions of section 1041.

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    \418\ See, e.g., Hillsborough County v. Automated Med. Laboratories, 471 U.S. 707, 713 (1985).

    \419\ See, e.g., 15 U.S.C. 1610(a)(1) & 12 CFR 1026.28 (TILA & Regulation Z); 15 U.S.C. 1691d(f) & 12 CFR 1002.11 (ECOA & Regulation B).

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    Lastly, the Bureau intends this rule to interact in the same manner with laws or regulations at other government levels, like city or locality laws or regulations.

  21. General Comments on the Bureau's Legal Authority

    In addition to setting out the Bureau's legal authority for this rulemaking and responding to comments directed to specific sources of authority, it is necessary to address several more general comments that challenged or criticized certain aspects of the Bureau's ability to proceed to finalize this rule. They will be addressed here.

    Some industry commenters and State Attorneys General have contended that the Bureau lacks the legal authority to adopt this rule because the Bureau itself or its statutory authority is unconstitutional on various grounds, including separation-of-powers, the non-delegation doctrine, and the 10th Amendment. No court has ever held that the Bureau is unable to issue regulations on the basis that it is unconstitutional, and in fact the Bureau has issued dozens of regulations to date, including many major rules that have profoundly affected key consumer markets such as mortgages, prepaid accounts, remittance transfers, and others--a number of which were mandated by Congress. In addition, longstanding precedent has established that a government agency lacks the authority to decide the constitutionality of congressional enactments.\420\

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    \420\ See, e.g., Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 368 (1974); Public Utils. Comm'n v. United States, 355 U.S. 534, 539 (1958).

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    One commenter argued that the timing of the proposed rule prevented the Bureau from using data gathered in Treasury Department Financial Empowerment Studies on small dollar loans conducted under Title XII of the Dodd-Frank Act, and that the

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    combination of Title XII and section 1022 of the Dodd-Frank Act evidence Congress's intent to not grant the Bureau authority to issue a rule that reduces the availability of payday loans. There is nothing in either the plain language or structure of the Dodd-Frank Act to suggest that Congress intended the Bureau to postpone any regulation of unfair and abusive payday lending practices until after Treasury had established the multiyear grant program that Congress authorized Treasury to establish. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Title XII does not mandate that Treasury create such programs--it merely authorizes Treasury to do so. Moreover, contrary to the commenter's assertions, the final rule will not end payday lending and it will not undermine the rationale for the grants for which Congress provided in Title XII. There is no basis to conclude that the Bureau is under any obligation to wait for such grant programs to play out to prevent UDAAPs.

    Some industry commenters have made the claim that the Bureau had impermissibly prejudged the evidence about whether and how to proceed with this rule and failed to comply with its own ex parte policy by engaging in improper communications with special interest groups prior to the publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking. The Bureau does not agree with these claims for several reasons. First, part III of the final rule, which summarizes in detail the Bureau's rulemaking process, shows that these claims are without basis. That discussion reflects the Bureau's considerable experience with these issues and with this market for over five years of steady work. It also includes a description of the Bureau's approach to handling the great volume of public comments received on the proposed rule, as well as a number of ex parte communications, which have been documented and incorporated into the administrative record and are available to the public at www.regulations.gov. Second, both the proposed rule and the final rule are based on the Bureau's careful review of the relevant evidence, including evidence generated by the Bureau's own studies, as well as evidence submitted by a broad range of stakeholders, including industry stakeholders. Finally, the numerous changes made in the final rule in response to stakeholder comments, including industry stakeholders, is further evidence that the Bureau has not prejudged any issues.

    A number of industry commenters have argued that the rule conflicts with the Bureau's statutory purpose under section 1021(b)(4) of the Dodd-Frank Act, which is to enforce the law consistently for all persons, regardless of their status as depository institutions, because it addresses covered loans but does not address other types of financial products, such as overdraft services or credit card accounts. The Bureau notes in response that each of these products has its own features, characteristics, historical background, and prior regulatory treatment, as discussed further in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.3(d). Just as it has not been judged to be impermissibly inconsistent for Federal and State authorities (including the Congress) to treat these distinct products differently as a matter of statutory law and regulation, despite certain similarities of product features and uses, even so it is not inconsistent for the Bureau to do so for the purposes of this rule. Further, while it may be true that more nonbanks will be impacted by this rule than banks by virtue of the products that banks and nonbanks are currently providing, that does not mean that this rule conflicts with section 1021(b)(4), but simply reflects the current makeup of this marketplace.

    Finally, and more narrowly, some Tribal and industry commenters have averred that the Bureau lacks authority to adopt regulations pursuant to section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act that apply to Indian tribes or to any of the entities to which they have delegated Tribal authority. These arguments raised on behalf of Tribal lenders have also been raised in Tribal consultations that the Bureau has held with federally recognized Indian Tribes, as discussed in part III, and in various court cases to date. They rest on what the Bureau believes is a misreading of the Act and of Federal law and precedents governing the scope of Tribal immunity, positions that the Bureau has briefed extensively to the Federal courts in some key cases testing these issues.\421\

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    \421\ See CFPB v. Great Plains Lending, 846 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2017), reh'g denied (Apr. 5, 2017) (Court of Appeals affirmed District Court ruling upholding and enforcing the Bureau's authority to issue civil investigative demands to payday lenders claiming Tribal affiliation and rejecting their claim of ``tribal sovereign immunity''; a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court is now pending); see also Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians v. New York State Dep't of Fin. Servs., 769 F.3d 105, 107 (2d Cir. 2014) (upholding the State's claim to be able to be able to pursue an enforcement action against payday lenders claiming Tribal affiliation that ``provide short-term loans over the Internet, all of which have triple-digit interest rates that far exceed the ceiling set by New York law;'' the Bureau filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the State's position).

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    V. Section-by-Section Analysis

    Subpart A--General

    Section 1041.1 Authority and Purpose

    Proposed Sec. 1041.1 provided that the rule is being issued pursuant to Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.\422\ It also provided that the purpose of this part is to identify certain unfair and abusive acts or practices in connection with certain consumer credit transactions; to set forth requirements for preventing such acts or practices; and to prescribe requirements to ensure that the features of those consumer credit transactions are fully, accurately, and effectively disclosed to consumers. It also noted that this part prescribes processes and criteria for registration of information systems.

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    \422\ Public Law 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, 1955 (2010).

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    The Bureau did not receive any comments on proposed Sec. 1041.1 and is finalizing this provision as proposed.

    Section 1041.2 Definitions

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2 set forth definitions for certain terms relevant to the proposal. Additional definitions were set forth in proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.3, 1041.5, 1041.9, 1041.14, and 1041.17 for further terms used in those respective sections. To the extent those definitions are used in the final rule and have not been moved into Sec. 1041.2, as discussed below, they are addressed in the context of those particular sections (some of which have been renumbered in the final rule).

    In general, the Bureau proposed to incorporate a number of defined terms under the Dodd-Frank Act and under other statutes or regulations and related commentary, particularly Regulation Z and Regulation E as they implement the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) \423\ and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA),\424\ respectively. The Bureau believed that basing the proposal's definitions on previously defined terms may minimize regulatory uncertainty and facilitate compliance, especially where the other regulations are likely to apply to the same transactions in their own right. However, as discussed further below, the Bureau proposed, in certain definitions, to expand or modify the existing definitions or the concepts enshrined in such definitions for purposes of the proposal to ensure that the rule had its intended scope of effect, particularly as industry practices may evolve.

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    \423\ Public Law 90-321, 82 Stat. 146 (1968).

    \424\ Public Law 95-630, 92 Stat. 3641 (1978).

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    Page 54525

    The Bureau received numerous comments about these proposed terms and their definitions, as well as some suggestions to define additional concepts left undefined in the proposal. The Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.2 with some revisions and deletions from the proposal, as discussed further below, including the addition of a rule of construction as Sec. 1041.2(b) to provide general guidance concerning the incorporation of terms from other statutes and regulations in the context of part 1041.

    2(a) Definitions

    2(a)(1) Account

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(1) would have defined account by cross-

    referencing to the definition of that same term in Regulation E, 12 CFR part 1005. Regulation E generally defines account to include demand deposit (checking), savings, or other consumer asset accounts (other than an occasional or incidental credit balance in a credit plan) held directly or indirectly by a financial institution and established primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.\425\ The term account was also used in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c), which would provide that a loan is a covered loan if, among other requirements, the lender or service provider obtains repayment directly from a consumer's account. This term was also used in proposed Sec. 1041.14, which would impose certain requirements when a lender seeks to obtain repayment for a covered loan directly from a consumer's account, and in proposed Sec. 1041.15, which would require lenders to provide notices to consumers before attempting to withdraw payments from consumers' accounts. The Bureau stated that defining this term consistently with an existing regulation would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. The Bureau considered the Regulation E definition to be appropriate because that definition is broad enough to capture the types of transactions that may implicate the concerns addressed by this part. Proposed comment 2(a)(1)-1 also made clear that institutions may rely on 12 CFR 1005.2(b) and its related commentary in determining the meaning of account.

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    \425\ Regulation E also specifically includes payroll card accounts and certain government benefit card accounts. As specifically noted in the proposal here, 81 FR 47864, 47904 n.416 (July 22, 2016), the Bureau was considering in a separate rulemaking whether to provide comprehensive consumer protections under Regulation E to a broader category of prepaid accounts. The Bureau later finalized that proposed rule. See 81 FR 83934 (Nov. 22, 2016).

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    One commenter stated that the definition of account should be expanded to include general-use prepaid cards, regardless of whether they are labeled and marketed as a gift card, as defined in 12 CFR 1005.20(a)(3). The Bureau recently finalized a separate rule creating comprehensive consumer protections for prepaid accounts, and in the process amended the definition of account in 12 CFR 1005.2(b) to include ``a prepaid account,'' so the thrust of the comment is already effectively addressed.\426\ The definition of ``prepaid account'' in that rulemaking only excludes gift cards that are both labeled and marketed as a gift card, which are subject to separate rules under Regulation E.\427\ The Bureau does not believe that such products are likely to be tendered as a form of leveraged payment mechanism, but will monitor the market for this issue and take appropriate action if it appears that lenders are using such products to evade coverage under the rule. The Bureau did not receive any other comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition as proposed. Proposed comment 2(a)(1)-1 has now been incorporated into comment 2(b)(1)-1 to illustrate the broader rule of construction discussed in Sec. 1041.2(b).

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    \426\ See 81 FR 83934, 83965-83978, 84325-84326 (Nov. 22, 2016).

    \427\ See 81 FR 83934, 83976-83978 (Nov. 22, 2016) (discussing Sec. 1005.2(b)(3)(ii)(D) and comment 2(b)(3)(ii)-3 of the final prepaid rule.).

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    2(a)(2) Affiliate

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(2) would have defined affiliate by cross-

    referencing to the definition of that same term in the Dodd-Frank Act, 12 U.S.C. 5481(1). The Dodd-Frank Act defines affiliate as any person that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with another person. Proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6 and 1041.10 would have imposed certain limitations on lenders making loans to consumers who have outstanding covered loans with an affiliate of the lender, and the Bureau's analyses of those proposed sections discussed in more detail the particular requirements related to affiliates. The Bureau stated that defining this term in the proposal consistently with the Dodd-

    Frank Act would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. Although the limitations in proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6 and 1041.10 are not being finalized, the final rule includes a number of other provisions in which the term affiliate is used, including the conditional exemption in Sec. 1041.3(f). The Bureau did not receive any comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition as proposed.

    2(a)(3) Closed-End Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(3) would have defined closed-end credit as an extension of credit to a consumer that is not open-end credit under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(14). This term is used in various parts of the rule where the Bureau proposed to tailor provisions specifically for closed-end and open-end credit in light of their different structures and durations. Most notably, proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(18) prescribed slightly different methods of calculating the total cost of credit for closed-end and open-end credit. Proposed Sec. 1041.16(c) also required lenders to furnish information about whether a covered loan is closed-

    end or open-end credit to registered information systems. Proposed comment 2(a)(3)-1 also made clear that institutions may rely on 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(10) and its related commentary in determining the meaning of closed-end credit, but without regard to whether the credit is consumer credit or is extended to a consumer, as those terms are defined in 12 CFR 1026.2(a).

    The Bureau did not receive any comments on the definition of closed-end credit contained in the proposal and is finalizing the definition and commentary as proposed. The Bureau did, however, receive a number of comments on the definition of open-end credit contained in the proposal and made some changes to that definition in light of the comments received, all as discussed below. Because the term closed-end credit is defined in contradistinction to the term open-end credit, the changes made to the latter definition will affect the parameters of this definition as well.

    2(a)(4) Consumer

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(4) would have defined consumer by cross-

    referencing the definition of that term in the Dodd-Frank Act, which defines consumer as an individual or an agent, trustee, or representative acting on behalf of an individual.\428\ The term is used in numerous provisions across proposed part 1041 to refer to applicants for and borrowers of covered loans. The Bureau stated that this definition, rather than the arguably narrower Regulation Z definition of consumer--which defines consumer as ``a cardholder or natural person to whom consumer credit is offered or extended''--is appropriate to

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    capture the types of transactions that may implicate the concerns addressed by the proposed rule. In particular, the definition of this term found in the Dodd-Frank Act expressly includes agents and representatives of individuals, rather than just individuals themselves. The Bureau believed this definition might more comprehensively foreclose possible evasion of the specific consumer protections imposed by proposed part 1041 than would the definition found in Regulation Z. The Bureau did not receive any comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition as proposed.

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    \428\ 12 U.S.C. 5481(4).

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    2(a)(5) Consummation

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(5) would have defined consummation as the time that a consumer becomes contractually obligated on a new loan, which is consistent with the definition of the term in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(13), or the time that a consumer becomes contractually obligated on a modification of an existing loan that increases the amount of the loan. The proposal used the term both in defining certain categories of covered loans and in defining the timing of certain proposed requirements. The time of consummation was important both in applying certain proposed definitions for purposes of coverage and in applying certain proposed substantive requirements. For example, under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1), whether a loan is a covered short-term loan would depend on whether the consumer is required to repay substantially all of the loan within 45 days of consummation. Under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)(i), the determination of whether a loan is subject to a total cost of credit exceeding 36 percent per annum would be made at the time of consummation. Pursuant to proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6 and 1041.10, certain limitations would potentially apply to lenders making covered loans based on the consummation dates of those loans. Pursuant to proposed Sec. 1041.15(b), lenders would have to furnish certain disclosures before a loan subject to the requirements of that section is consummated.

    In the proposal, the Bureau stated that defining this term consistently with Regulation Z with respect to new loans would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. Proposed comment 2(a)(5)-1 also made clear that the question of when a consumer would become contractually obligated with regard to a new loan is a matter to be determined under applicable law; for example, a contractual commitment agreement that binds the consumer to the loan would be a consummation. However, the comment stated that consummation does not occur merely because the consumer has made some financial investment in the transaction (for example, by paying a non-refundable fee), unless applicable law holds otherwise. The Bureau also provided guidance as to consummation with respect to particular loan modifications, so as to further the intent of proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) and (2), 1041.5(b), and 1041.9(b), all of which would impose requirements on lenders as of the time that the loan amount increases on an existing loan. The Bureau concluded that defining these increases in loan amounts as consummations would improve clarity for consumers, industry, and regulators. The above-referenced sections, as proposed, would impose no duties or limitations on lenders when a loan modification decreases the amount of the loan. Accordingly, in addition to incorporating Regulation Z commentary as to the general definition of consummation for new loans, proposed comment 2(a)(5)-2 explained the time at which certain modifications of existing loans would be considered to be a consummation for purposes of the rule. Proposed comment 2(a)(5)-2 explained that a modification would be considered a consummation if the modification increases the amount of the loan. Proposed comment 2(a)(5)-2 also explained that a cost-free repayment plan, or ``off-ramp'' as it is commonly known in the market, would not result in a consummation under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(5).

    In the proposal, the Bureau stated that it considered expressly defining a new loan in order to clarify when lenders would need to make the ability-to-repay determinations prescribed in proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.9. The definition that the Bureau considered would have defined a new loan as a consumer-purpose loan made to a consumer that (a) is made to a consumer who is not indebted on an outstanding loan, (b) replaces an outstanding loan, or (c) modifies an outstanding loan, except when a repayment plan, or ``off-ramp'' extends the term of the loan and imposes no additional fees.

    Although some commenters requested more guidance to distinguish a loan modification from an instance of re-borrowing or a loan refinancing, the Bureau has concluded that the examples provided in the commentary sufficiently address all of the relevant scenarios where ambiguity could arise about whether consummation occurs. No other comments were received on any other aspect of this portion of the proposal. The Bureau has reworded parts of comment 2(a)(5)-2 for clarity in describing what types of loan modifications trigger substantive requirements under part 1041, but otherwise is finalizing this definition and the commentary as proposed.

    2(a)(6) Cost of Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(18) set forth the method for lenders to calculate the total cost of credit to determine whether a longer-term loan would be covered under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2). Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(18) generally would have defined the total cost of credit as the total amount of charges associated with a loan expressed as a per annum rate, including various charges that do not meet the definition of finance charge under Regulation Z. The charges would be included even if they were paid to a party other than the lender. The Bureau proposed to adopt this approach to defining loan costs from the Military Lending Act, and also to have adopted the MLA's 36 percent threshold in defining what covered longer-term loans were subject to part 1041. The effect would have been that a loan with a term of longer than 45 days must have a total cost of credit exceeding a rate of 36 percent per annum in order to be a covered loan. The Bureau thus proposed using an all-in measure of the total cost of credit rather than the definition of annual percentage rate (APR) under Regulation Z because it was concerned that lenders might otherwise shift their fee structures to fall outside traditional Regulation Z concepts. This in turn would lead them to fall outside the proposed underwriting criteria for covered longer-term loans, which they could do, for example, by imposing charges in connection with a loan that are not included in the calculation of APR under Regulation Z.

    The Bureau acknowledged that lenders were less familiar with the approach involving the MLA calculations than they are with the more traditional APR approach and calculations under Regulation Z. Therefore, the Bureau specifically sought comment on the compliance burdens of the proposed approach and whether to use the more traditional APR approach instead.

    The Bureau received many comments on the definition of the total cost of credit, which reflected its functional position in the proposed rule as the trigger for the additional underwriting criteria applicable to covered longer-term loans. A number of comments addressed what kinds of fees and charges should be included or excluded from the total cost of credit and demanded more technical guidance,

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    which reflected the increased complexity of using this method. One lender noted a specific loan program that would only be included in the rule because of the inclusion of participation fees in the proposed definition. Various commenters noted the greater simplicity of the APR calculation in Regulation Z, and contended that greater burdens would be imposed and less clarity achieved by applying the proposed definition of total cost of credit. The latter, they suggested, would confuse consumers who are accustomed to Regulation Z's APR definition, would be difficult to administer properly, and would be likely to have unintended consequences, such as causing many lenders to choose not to offer optional ancillary products like credit life and disability insurance, to the detriment of borrowers. Consumer groups, by contrast, generally preferred the proposed definition of total cost of credit, though they offered suggestions to tighten and clarify it in several respects.

    As noted earlier, the Bureau is not finalizing the portions of the proposed rule governing underwriting criteria for covered longer-term loans at this time. Given that covered longer-term loans are only subject to the payment requirements in subpart C, and in view of the comments received, the Bureau concludes that the advantages of simplicity and consistency militate in favor of adopting an APR threshold as the measure of the cost of credit, which is widely accepted and built into many State laws, and which is the cost that will be disclosed to consumers under Regulation Z. Moreover, the Bureau believes that the other changes in the rule mean that the basis for concern that lenders would shift their fee structures to fall outside traditional Regulation Z definitions has been reduced. Instead, the cost-of-credit threshold is now relevant only to determine whether the portions of the final rule governing payments apply to longer-term loans, which the Bureau has concluded are much less likely to prompt lenders to seek to modify their fee structures simply to avoid the application of those provisions.

    The Bureau notes that in determining here that the Regulation Z definition of cost of credit would be simpler and easier to use for the limited purpose of defining the application of the payment provisions of subpart C of this rule, the Bureau does not intend to decide or endorse this measure of the cost of credit--as contrasted with the total cost of credit adopted under the MLA--for any subsequent rule governing the underwriting of covered longer-term loans without balloons. The stricter and more encompassing measure used for the MLA rule may well be more protective of consumers,\429\ and the Bureau will consider the applicability of that measure as it considers how to address longer-term loans in a subsequent rule.

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    \429\ In particular, the Bureau notes the statement that the Department of Defense made in the MLA rule that ``unqualified exclusions from the MAPR military annual percentage rate for certain fees, or all non-periodic fees, could be exploited by a creditor who would be allowed to preserve a high-cost, open-end credit product by offering a relatively lower periodic rate coupled with an application fee, participation fee, or other fee,'' in declining to adopt any such exclusions, which indicates the more protective nature of a ``total cost of credit'' definition when coupled with such further measures as necessary to protect consumers. 80 FR 43563.

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    To effectuate this change, the Bureau has adopted as the final rule's defined term ``cost of credit,'' which is an APR threshold rather than a threshold based on the total cost of credit as defined in the proposed rule. The cost of credit is defined to be consistent with Regulation Z and thus includes finance charges associated with the credit as stated in Regulation Z, 12 CFR 1026.4. As discussed further below in connection with Sec. 1041.3(b)(3), for closed-end credit, the total cost of credit must be calculated at consummation and according to the requirements of Regulation Z, 12 CFR 1026.22, but would not have to be recalculated at some future time, even if a leveraged payment mechanism is not obtained until later. For open-end credit, the total cost of credit must be calculated at consummation and, if it does not cross the 36 percent threshold at that time, at the end of each billing cycle thereafter according to the rules for calculating the effective annual percentage rate for a billing cycle as stated in Regulation Z, 12 CFR 1026.14(c) and (d). This is a change from the proposal in order to determine coverage in situations in which there may not be an immediate draw, which was not expressly addressed in the proposal.

    The Bureau has concluded that defining the term cost of credit consistently with Regulation Z would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. It also reduces burden and avoids undue complexities, especially now that the Bureau is not finalizing the underwriting criteria that were proposed for covered longer-term loans at this time. For these reasons, the Bureau is finalizing the definition of cost of credit in a manner consistent with the discussion above, as renumbered, and with some minor additional wording revisions from the proposed rule for clarity and consistency. The proposed commentary associated with the term total cost of credit is no longer relevant and has been omitted from the final rule.

    2(a)(7) Covered Longer-Term Balloon-Payment Loan

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) would have defined a covered longer-

    term balloon-payment loan as a covered longer-term loan described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)--as further specified in the next definition below--where the consumer is required to repay the loan in a single payment or through at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s) under the loan. Proposed Sec. 1041.9(b)(2) contained certain rules that lenders would have to follow when determining whether a consumer has the ability to repay a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan. Moreover, some of the restrictions imposed in proposed Sec. 1041.10 would apply to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans in certain situations.

    The term covered longer-term balloon-payment loan would include loans that are repayable in a single payment notwithstanding the fact that a loan with a ``balloon'' payment is often understood in other contexts to mean a loan repayable in multiple payments with one payment substantially larger than the other payments. In the proposal, the Bureau found as a preliminary matter that both structures pose similar risks to consumers, and proposed to treat both types of loans the same way for the purposes of proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.9 and 1041.10. Accordingly, the Bureau proposed to use a single defined term for both loan types to improve the proposal's readability.

    Apart from including single-payment loans within the definition of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, the proposed term substantially tracked the definition of balloon payment contained in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.32(d)(1), with one additional modification. The Regulation Z definition requires the larger loan payment to be compared to other regular periodic payments, whereas proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) required the larger loan payment to be compared to any other payment(s) under the loan, regardless of whether the payment is a regular periodic payment. Proposed comments 2(a)(7)-2 and 2(a)(7)-3 explained that payment in this context means a payment of principal or interest, and excludes certain charges such as late fees and payments that are accelerated upon the consumer's default. Proposed comment 2(a)(7)-1 would have specified that a

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    loan described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) is considered to be a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan if the consumer must repay the entire amount of the loan in a single payment.

    A coalition of consumer advocacy groups commented that this proposed definition is under-inclusive because it fails to include other loans that create risk that consumers will need to re-borrow because larger payments inflict payment shock on the borrowers. The commenter suggested that a more appropriate definition would be the one found in the North Carolina Retail Installment Sales Act, which defines a balloon payment as a payment that is more than 10 percent greater than other payments, except for the final payment, which is a balloon payment if it is more than 25 percent greater than other payments. In light of this comparison, the commenter recommended that any payment that is 10 percent greater than any other payment should be considered a balloon payment.

    The Bureau recognizes these concerns, but notes that the proposed definition is generally consistent with how balloon-payment loans are defined and treated under Regulation Z, and therefore believes that adopting that definition for purposes of this rule would promote consistency and reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. The Bureau will be alert to the risk that smaller irregular payments that are not as large as twice the amount of the other payments could still cause expense shock for some consumers and lead to the kinds of problems addressed here, and thus could trigger a finding of unfairness or abusiveness in particular circumstances. In addition, the Bureau has experience with the rules adopted to implement the Military Lending Act, where loan products and lending practices adopted by some lenders in this industry evolved to circumvent the provisions of those rules. In particular, as noted in the proposal, lenders began offering payday loans greater than 91 days in duration and vehicle title loans greater than 181 days in duration, along with open-end products, in a direct response intended to evade the MLA rules--a development that prompted further Congressional and regulatory intervention. If problems begin to appear in this market from practices that are intended to circumvent the provisions of this rule, the Bureau and other regulators would be able to address any unfair or abusive practices with respect to such loan products through supervision or enforcement authority, or by amending this rule to broaden the definition.

    Some industry commenters contended that the Bureau's concerns about re-borrowing for covered longer-term loans were most applicable to loans with balloon-payment structures, and they therefore argued that any ability-to-repay restrictions and underwriting criteria should be limited to longer-term balloon-payment loans. The Bureau agrees that many of its concerns about covered longer-term balloon-payment loans are similar to its concerns about covered short-term loans. Yet the Bureau also has considerable concerns about certain lending practices with respect to other covered longer-term loans, and will continue to scrutinize those practices under its supervision and enforcement authority and in a future rulemaking. At this time, however, as described more fully below in the section on Market Concerns--

    Underwriting, the Bureau has observed longer-term loans involving balloon payments where the lender does not reasonably assess the borrower's ability to repay before making the loan, and in those circumstances it has observed many of the same types of consumer harms that it has observed when lenders fail to reasonably assess the borrower's ability to repay before making covered short-term loans.

    As noted in part I, for a number of reasons the Bureau has decided not to address the underwriting of all covered longer-term loans at this time. Nonetheless, as just mentioned and as discussed more fully below in Market Concerns--Underwriting, the Bureau is concerned that if subpart B is not applied to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, then lenders would simply extend the terms of their current short-term products beyond 45 days, without changing the payment structures of those loans or their current inadequate underwriting practices, as a way to circumvent the underwriting criteria for covered short-term loans. As stated above, the balloon-payment structure of these loans tend to pose very similar risks and harms to consumers as for covered short-term loans, including likely poses similar forecasting problems for consumers in repaying such loans. Therefore, in Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule, the specific underwriting criteria that apply to covered short-term loans are made applicable to covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans also. The Bureau has also modified the definition of covered longer-term balloon-payment loan so that it applies to all loans with the payment structures described in the proposal. This represents an expansion in scope as compared to the proposal, as longer-term balloon-payment loans are now being covered without regard to the cost of credit or whether the lender has taken a leveraged payment mechanism in connection with the loan. In the proposal, the Bureau specifically sought comment on this potential modification, and the reasons for it are set out more extensively below in Market Concerns--Underwriting. And along with other covered longer-term loans, these particular loans remain covered by the sections of the final rule on payments as well.

    In light of the decision to treat covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans differently from other covered longer-term loans, the Bureau decided to shift the primary description of the requirements for covered longer-term balloon-payment loans to Sec. 1041.3(b)(2). Accordingly, the language of Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) of the final rule has been revised to mirror the language of Sec. 1041.2(a)(8) and (10), which simply cross-reference the descriptions of the various types of covered loans specified in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b). As a housekeeping matter, therefore, the substantive definition for longer-term balloon-

    payment loans is now omitted from this definition and is addressed instead in a comprehensive manner in Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) of this final rule, where it has been expanded to address in more detail various loan structures that constitute covered longer-term balloon-payment loans. For the same reason, proposed comments 2(a)(7)-1 to 2(a)(7)-3 are omitted from the final rule and those matters are addressed in comments 3(b)(2)-1 to 3(b)(2)-4 of the final rule, as discussed below.

    The term covered longer-term balloon-payment loan is therefore defined in the final rule as a loan described in Sec. 1041.3(b)(2).

    2(a)(8) Covered Longer-Term Loan

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(8) would have defined a covered longer-

    term loan to be a loan described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2). That proposed section, in turn, described a covered loan as one made to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that is not subject to any exclusions or exemptions, and which can be either: (1) Closed-end credit that does not provide for multiple advances to consumers, where the consumer is not required to repay substantially the entire amount due under the loan within 45 days of consummation; or (2) all other loans (whether open-end credit or closed-end credit), where the consumer is not required to repay

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    substantially the entire amount of the advance within 45 days of the advance under the loan and, in either case, two other conditions are satisfied--the total cost of credit for the loan exceeds an annual rate of 36 percent, as measured at specified times; and the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism, including but not limited to vehicle security, at specified times.

    Some restrictions in proposed part 1041 would have applied only to covered longer-term loans described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2). For example, proposed Sec. 1041.9 would have prescribed the ability-to-

    repay determination that lenders are required to perform when making covered longer-term loans. Proposed Sec. 1041.10 would have imposed limitations on lenders making covered longer-term loans to consumers in certain circumstances that may indicate the consumer lacks the ability to repay. The Bureau proposed to use a defined term for the loans described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) for clarity.

    The Bureau received many comments on this definition that focused primarily on whether the definition was appropriate for purposes of the proposed underwriting requirements or for inclusion in the rulemaking generally, rather than with regard to the payment interventions in particular. A law firm representing a traditional installment lending client commented that the definition of covered longer-term loan in the proposed rule would include traditional installment loans to a greater extent than the Bureau anticipated, with a correspondingly larger impact on credit availability as installment lenders would be forced to replace their proven underwriting techniques with burdensome and untried approaches. Others contended that the Bureau had presented no evidence indicating that the practices associated with traditional installment loans are unfair or abusive.

    Several commenters noted that a number of traditional installment loan products may exceed a total cost of credit of 36 percent, and some may even exceed a 36 percent annual percentage rate under TILA as well. A trade association said that such a stringent all-in annual percentage rate could encompass many bank loan products. More broadly, some commenters criticized the use of any form of interest rate threshold to determine the legal status of any loans as potentially violating the prohibition in section 1027(o) of the Dodd-Frank Act against imposing usury limits on extensions of consumer credit.

    Many commenters offered their views on the prong of the definition that focused on the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security, again often in the context of application of the underwriting requirements rather than the payment requirements. Those concerns have largely been addressed or mooted by the Bureau's decisions to apply only the payment requirements to covered longer-term loans and to narrow the definition of such loans to focus only on those types of leveraged payment mechanisms that involve the ability to pull money from consumers' accounts, rather than vehicle security. Comments focusing on that narrower definition of leveraged payment mechanism are addressed in more depth in connection with Sec. 1041.3(c) below.

    Therefore, in light of these comments and the considerations discussed above and in connection with Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) below, the Bureau is finalizing the definition of covered longer-term loan in Sec. 1041.2(a)(8) as discussed, with the cross-reference to proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) now edited and renumbered as Sec. 1041.3(b)(3). As for the latter section now referenced in this definition, it too has been edited to clarify that covered longer-term loans no longer encompass covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, which are now treated separately, as the former are no longer subject to specific underwriting criteria whereas the latter are subject to the same specific underwriting criteria as covered short-term loans, which are set out in Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule.

    The term covered longer-term loan is therefore defined in the final rule, as described in Sec. 1041.3(b)(3), as one made to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that is not subject to any exclusions or exemptions, and which can be neither a covered short-term loan nor a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan--and thus constitutes a covered longer-term loan without a balloon-payment structure--and which meets both of the following conditions: The cost of credit for the loan exceeds a rate of 36 percent per annum; and the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism as defined in Sec. 1041.3(c) of the final rule.

    The details of that description, and how it varies from the original proposed description of a covered longer-term loan, are provided and explained more fully in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) of the final rule.

    2(a)(9) Covered Person

    The Bureau has decided to include in the final rule a definition of the term covered person, which the final rule defines by cross-

    referencing the definition of that same term in the Dodd-Frank Act, 12 U.S.C. 5481(6). In general, the Dodd-Frank Act defines covered person as any person that engages in offering or providing a consumer financial product or service and any affiliate of such person if the affiliate acts as a service provider to such person. The Bureau concludes that defining the term covered person consistently with the Dodd-Frank Act is a mere clarification that reduces the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators, since this term is used throughout the final rule. The Bureau therefore is including this definition in the final rule as Sec. 1041.2(a)(9).

    2(a)(10) Covered Short-Term Loan

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(6) would have defined a covered short-term loan to be a loan described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1). That proposed section, in turn, described a covered loan as one made to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that is not subject to any exclusions or exemptions, and which can be either: Closed-end credit that does not provide for multiple advances to consumers, where the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount due under the loan within 45 days of consummation, or all other loans (whether open-end credit or closed-end credit), where the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount of the advance within 45 days of the advance under the loan. Some provisions in proposed part 1041 would apply only to covered short-term loans as described in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1). For example, proposed Sec. 1041.5 would prescribe the ability-to-repay determination that lenders are required to perform when making covered short-term loans. Proposed Sec. 1041.6 would impose limitations on lenders making sequential covered short-term loans to consumers. And proposed Sec. 1041.16 would impose the payment provisions on covered short-term loans as well. The Bureau proposed to use a defined term for the loans described in Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) for clarity.

    Various commenters stated that this definition is extraordinarily broad and sweeps in many different types of short-term loans, and institutions and trade associations both argued for exempting the types of loans they or their members commonly make. For example, one credit union commenter argued that the Bureau should exclude loans with total cost of credit under 36 percent. Consumer advocates argued, to the contrary, that broad coverage under the

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    proposed rule is necessary to capture the relevant market, which can differ legally and functionally from one State to another. The Bureau finds that covered short-term loans pose substantial risks and harms for consumers, as it has detailed more thoroughly below in Market Concerns--Underwriting and the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.4 of the final rule. At the same time, the Bureau is adopting various exclusions and exemptions from coverage under the rule in Sec. 1041.3(d), (e), and (f) below, and has discussed commenters' requests for exclusions of various categories of loans and lenders in connection with those provisions. The Bureau has expanded the alternative loan exclusion, which now triggers off of cost of credit as defined under Regulation Z, and thus, it appears likely that the products of the credit union noted above are excluded. In light of the aggregate effect of this broad definition coupled with those exclusions and exemptions, the Bureau concludes that its definition of covered short-term loan is specific, yet necessarily broad in its coverage, in order to effectuate protections for consumers against practices that the Bureau has found to be unfair and abusive in the market for these loans. The Bureau is finalizing as proposed other than renumbering. Likewise, the provision referenced in this definition--proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1)--is being finalized with only non-substantive language changes, though additional commentary on that provision has been added in the final rule and will be addressed below in the discussion of that portion of the rule.

    2(a)(11) Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(9) would have defined credit by cross-

    referencing the definition of credit in Regulation Z, 12 CFR part 1026. Regulation Z defines credit as the right to defer payment of debt or to incur debt and defer its payment. This term was used in numerous places throughout the proposal to refer generically to the types of consumer financial products that would be subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041. The Bureau stated that defining this term consistently with an existing regulation would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. The Bureau also stated that the definition in Regulation Z is appropriately broad so as to capture the various types of transaction structures that implicate the concerns addressed by proposed part 1041. Proposed comment 2(a)(9) further made clear that institutions may rely on 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(14) and its related commentary in determining the meaning of credit.

    One consumer group commented that the definition of credit did not include a definition of loan and that these commonly related terms should be clarified to avoid the potential for confusion--a point that is addressed in Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(13) and 1041.3(a) of the final rule. The Bureau did not receive any other comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition and the commentary as proposed.

    2(a)(12) Electronic Fund Transfer

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(10) would have defined electronic fund transfer by cross-referencing the definition of that same term in Regulation E, 12 CFR part 1005. Proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) would provide that a loan may be a covered longer-term loan if the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism, which can include the ability to withdraw payments from a consumer's account through an electronic fund transfer. Proposed Sec. 1041.14 would impose limitations on how lenders use various payment methods, including electronic fund transfers. Proposed comment 2(a)(10)-1 also made clear that institutions may rely on 12 CFR 1005.3(b) and its related commentary in determining the meaning of electronic fund transfer. The Bureau stated that defining this term consistently with an existing regulation would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. The Bureau did not receive any comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition as renumbered and the commentary as proposed.

    2(a)(13) Lender

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(11) would have defined lender as a person who regularly makes loans to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. This term was used throughout the proposal to refer to parties that are subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041. This proposed definition is broader than the general definition of creditor under Regulation Z in that, under this proposed definition, the credit that the lender extends need not be subject to a finance charge as that term is defined by Regulation Z, nor must it be payable by written agreement in more than four installments.

    The Bureau proposed a broader definition than in Regulation Z for many of the same reasons that it proposed using the total cost of credit as a threshold for covering longer-term loans rather than the traditional definition of annual percentage rate as defined by Regulation Z, which was discussed in the analyses of Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(11) and 1041.3(b)(2)(i) of the proposed rule. In both instances, the Bureau was concerned that lenders might otherwise shift their fee structures to fall outside of traditional Regulation Z concepts and thus outside the coverage of proposed part 1041. For example, the Bureau stated that some loans that otherwise would meet the requirements for coverage under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b) could potentially be made without being subject to a finance charge as that term is defined by Regulation Z. If the Bureau adopted that particular Regulation Z requirement in the definition of lender, a person who regularly extended closed-end credit subject only to an application fee, or open-end credit subject only to a participation fee, would not be deemed to have imposed a finance charge. In addition, many of the loans that would be subject to coverage under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) are repayable in a single payment, so those same lenders might also fall outside the Regulation Z trigger for loans payable in fewer than four installments. Thus, the Bureau proposed to use a definition that is broader than the one contained in Regulation Z to ensure that the provisions proposed in part 1041 would apply as intended.

    The Bureau proposed to carry over from the Regulation Z definition of creditor the requirement that a person ``regularly'' makes loans to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes in order to be considered a lender under proposed part 1041. Proposed comment 2(a)(11)-1 explained that the test for determining whether a person regularly makes loans is the same as in Regulation Z, as explained in 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(17)(v), and depends on the overall number of loans made to a consumer for personal, family, or household purposes, not just covered loans. The Bureau stated in the proposal that it would be appropriate to exclude from the definition of lender those persons who make loans for personal, family, or household purposes on an infrequent basis so that persons who only occasionally make loans would not be subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041. Such persons could include charitable, religious, or other community institutions that make loans very infrequently or individuals who occasionally make loans to family members.

    Consumer groups noted in commenting on the definition of lender that the proposed rule did not explicitly

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    define what a loan is and urged the Bureau to include a definition of this term as well, as it is used frequently throughout the rule. They also commented that the definition of lender should be broadened to encompass service providers as well.

    For the reasons explained above in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.2(a)(6), with respect to the definition of the term cost of credit, the Bureau has now narrowed the coverage of longer-term loans by using a threshold that is based on finance charges under Regulation Z rather than the broader range of items included in the proposed definition of total cost of credit. At the same time, it has decided to maintain the broader definition of lender, which includes parties that extend credit even if it is not subject to a finance charge as defined in Regulation Z, nor payable by written agreement in more than four installments. With regard to covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans, the Bureau has concluded that it is important to maintain broad coverage over such products, even if the companies that provide them may try to structure them so as to avoid qualifying as a ``creditor'' under Regulation Z. The reasons for revising the definition of cost of credit, again as explained further below, were driven in large part by the Bureau's decision not to address the underwriting of other covered longer-term loans in this rule at this time, given the benefits of alignment with Regulation Z and greater simplicity. The broader definition of lender remains germane, however, to the types of loans that are subject to the underwriting provisions of the final rule.

    In addition, the Bureau does not find it necessary to supplement these definitions further by adding a new definition of loan in addition to the modified definitions of credit and lender. Instead, the Bureau is addressing the commenters' point by modifying the definition of lender in Sec. 1041.2(a)(13) to refer to a person who regularly ``extends credit'' rather than making loans, and has revised Sec. 1041.3(a) to refer to a lender who ``extends credit by making covered loans.'' The loans covered by the final rule are credit as defined in the rule and are made by lenders as defined in the rule. In addition, key subsets of the broader universe of loans--including covered short-

    term loans, covered longer-term loans, and covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans--are also defined explicitly in the final rule. And these definitions are premised in turn on the explication of what is a covered loan in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b). As for the relationship between the terms lender and service provider, the Bureau is satisfied that these relationships and their effects are addressed in a satisfactory manner by defining lender as set forth here and by including separate definitions of covered person and service provider in conformity to the Dodd-Frank Act, as discussed in Sec. 1041.2(a)(9) and (18) of the final rule. The relationship between lender and service provider is discussed further below in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.2(a)(18), which concerns the definition of service provider.

    One other segment of commenters sought to be excluded or exempted from coverage under this rule, raising many of the same points that they had raised during Bureau outreach prior to release of the proposal.

    As stated in the proposal, some stakeholders had suggested to the Bureau that the definition of lender should be narrowed so as to exempt financial institutions that predominantly make loans that would not be covered loans under the proposed rule. They stated that some financial institutions only make loans that would be covered loans as an accommodation to existing customers, and that providing such loans is such a small part of the overall business that it would not be practical for the institutions to develop the required procedures for making covered loans. The Bureau solicited comment on whether it should narrow the definition of lender based on the quantity of covered loans an entity offers, and, if so, how to define such a de minimis test. Similarly, during the comment period many commenters, including but not limited to smaller depository institutions, presented their views that this kind of accommodation lending is longstanding and widespread and so should not be subject to coverage under the rule.

    At the same time, stakeholders had urged and the Bureau recognized at the time it issued the proposed rule that some newly formed companies are providing services that, in effect, allow consumers to draw on money they have earned but not yet been paid. Certain of these services do not require the consumer to pay any fees or finance charges, relying instead on voluntary ``tips'' to sustain the business, while others are compensated through electronic fund transfers from the consumer's account. Some current or future services may use other business models. The Bureau also noted the existence of some newly formed companies providing financial management services to low- and moderate-income consumers that include features to smooth income. The Bureau solicited comment on whether such entities should be considered lenders under the regulation.

    During the public comment period, a coalition of consumer groups, some ``fintech'' firms, and others expressed concern about how the definition of lender would apply to new businesses that are creating services to consumers to access earned income for a fee--thereby jeopardizing certain promising innovations by making them subject to the constraining provisions of this rule--and others offered views on that set of issues as well. Commenters also offered their thoughts on other innovative income-smoothing and financial-management initiatives.

    The Bureau has decided to address the issues raised by commenters that were seeking an exclusion or exemption from this rule not by altering the definition of lender but instead by fashioning specific exclusions and conditional exemptions as addressed below in Sec. 1041.3(d), (e), and (f) of the final rule.

    Therefore in light of the comments and responses, the Bureau is finalizing this definition as renumbered and the commentary as proposed, with the one modification--use of the phrase ``extends credit''--as discussed above.

    2(a)(14) Loan Sequence or Sequence

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(12) generally would have defined a loan sequence or sequence as a series of consecutive or concurrent covered short-term loans in which each of the loans (other than the first loan) is made while the consumer currently has an outstanding covered short-

    term loan or within 30 days thereafter. It would define both loan sequence and sequence the same way because the terms are used interchangeably in various places throughout the proposal. Furthermore, it also specified how to determine a given loan's place within a sequence (for example, whether a loan constitutes the first, second, or third loan in a sequence), which would implicate other provisions of the proposed rule.

    The Bureau's rationale for proposing to define loan sequence in this manner was discussed in more detail in the section-by-section analysis of proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.4 and 1041.6. The Bureau also sought comment on whether alternative definitions of loan sequence may better address its concerns about how a consumer's inability to repay a covered loan may cause the need for a successive covered loan.

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    Some consumer advocates commented that this definition would be clarified by including language from local ordinances or State laws that have the same effective meaning so as to avoid any confusion in compliance and enforcement. Consumer groups commented that the rule should treat a loan made within 60 days of another loan, rather than 30 days, as part of the same loan sequence in order to better effectuate its purpose of addressing the flipping of both short-term and longer-

    term loans and to include late fees as rollover fees. Some industry commenters argued for a shorter period.

    The Bureau has considered a number of ways to specify and clarify the definition of loan sequences in order to minimize or avoid evasions of the final rule. Adopting local or State definitions would not appear to clarify the issues, as they are inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. However, as discussed in greater detail below in Market Concerns--Underwriting and in Sec. Sec. 1041.4 and 1041.5(d) of the final rule, the Bureau has decided to incorporate covered longer-term balloon-payment loans into this definition, reflecting concerns about the harms that can occur to consumers who take out a series of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans in quick succession as well as the Bureau's concerns about potential evasions of the underwriting criteria.

    As discussed in the proposal, the Bureau also has considered various time frames for the definition of loan sequence, including 14 days as well as 30 days and 60 days, and decided in finalizing the rule to adhere to 30 days as a reasonable and appropriate frequency for use in this definition, to align with consumer expense cycles, which often involve recurring expenses that are typically a month in length. This is designed to account for the fact that where repaying a loan causes a shortfall, the consumer may seek to return during the same expense cycle to get funds to cover downstream expenses. In addition, a number of consumers receive income on a monthly basis. The various considerations involved in resolving these issues are discussed more fully in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.5(d) of the final rule.

    In light of the discussion above, the Bureau otherwise is finalizing this renumbered definition as modified. In addition, wherever the proposed definition had referred to a covered short-term loan, the definition in the final rule refers instead to a covered short-term loan or a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan--or, where pluralized, the definition in the final rule refers instead to covered short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, or a combination thereof.

    2(a)(15) Motor Vehicle

    In connection with proposing to subject certain longer-term loans with vehicle security to part 1041, in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) the Bureau would have defined vehicle security to refer to the term motor vehicle as defined in section 1029(f)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act. That definition encompasses not only vehicles primarily used for on-road transportation, but also recreational boats, motor homes, and other categories. As described below, the Bureau has now decided to narrow the definition of covered-longer term loan to focus only on loans that meet a certain rate threshold and involve the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism as defined in Sec. 1041.3(c) of the final rule, without regard to whether vehicle security is taken on the loan. However, the definitions of vehicle security and motor vehicle are still relevant to Sec. 1041.6(b)(3), which prohibits lenders from making covered short-term loans under Sec. 1041.6 if they take vehicle security in connection with such a loan, for the reasons explained in the section-by-section analysis of that provision.

    Upon further consideration in light of this context and its experience from other related rulemakings, the Bureau has decided to narrow the definition of motor vehicle in the final rule to focus on any self-propelled vehicle primarily used for on-road transportation, but not including motor homes, recreational vehicles, golf carts, and motor scooters. Some commenters did suggest that vehicle title loans should encompass boats, motorcycles, and manufactured homes. Nonetheless, the Bureau has concluded that it is more appropriate to use a narrower definition because the term motor vehicle is germane to the vehicle title loans addressed in the final rule, which involve the prospect of repossession of the vehicle for failing to repay the loan. The impact to consumers from default or repossession likely operates differently for basic on-road transportation used to get to work or manage everyday affairs, thus creating different pressures to repay loans based on these kinds of vehicles as compared to loans based on other forms of transportation.

    Moreover, from the Bureau's prior experience of writing rules with respect to vehicles, most notably in the Bureau's larger participant rule authorizing its supervision authority over certain entities in the market for auto loans, it is aware that treatment of this category of items requires clarification in light of what can be some difficult and unexpected boundary issues. The definition included here in Sec. 1041.2(a)(15) of the final rule is thus similar to the language used in the Bureau's larger participant rule for the auto loan market,\430\ which generally encompasses the kinds of vehicles--specifically cars and trucks and motorcycles--that consumers primarily use for on-road transportation rather than for housing or recreation. The Bureau also notes that it had proposed to exclude loans secured by manufactured homes under Sec. 1041.3(e)(2), and has finalized that provision in Sec. 1041.3(d)(2) as discussed below.

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    \430\ 80 FR 37496 (June 30, 2015).

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    2(a)(16) Open-End Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(14) would have defined open-end credit by cross-referencing the definition of that same term in Regulation Z, 12 CFR part 1026, but without regard to whether the credit is consumer credit, as that term is defined in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(12), is extended by a creditor, as that term is defined in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(17), or is extended to a consumer, as that term is defined in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(11). In general, Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(20) provides that open-end credit is consumer credit in which the creditor reasonably contemplates repeated transactions, the creditor may impose a finance charge from time to time on an outstanding unpaid balance, and the amount of credit that may be extended to the consumer during the term of the plan (up to any limit set by the creditor) is generally made available to the extent that any outstanding balance is repaid. For the purposes of defining open-end credit under proposed part 1041, the term credit, as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(9), was substituted for the term consumer credit in the Regulation Z definition of open-end credit; the term lender, as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(11), was substituted for the term creditor in the same Regulation Z definition; and the term consumer, as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(4), was substituted for the term consumer in the Regulation Z definition of open-end credit.

    The term open-end credit was used in various parts of the proposal where the Bureau tailored requirements separately for closed-end and open-end credit in light of their different structures and durations. Most notably, proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(18) would require lenders to employ slightly different methods when

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    calculating the total cost of credit of closed-end versus open-end loans. Proposed Sec. 1041.16(c) also would require lenders to report whether a covered loan is a closed-end or open-end loan.

    In the proposal, the Bureau stated that generally defining this term consistently across regulations would reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. With regard to the definition of consumer, however, the Bureau proposed that, for the reasons discussed in connection with proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(4), it would be more appropriate to incorporate the definition from the Dodd-

    Frank Act rather than the definition from Regulation Z, which is arguably narrower. Similarly, the Bureau indicated that it would be more appropriate to use the broader definition of lender contained in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(11) than the Regulation Z definition of creditor.

    One commenter recommended that the Bureau defer action on lines of credit entirely (not just overdraft lines of credit as would be excluded in proposed Sec. 1041.3) and address these loan products in a future rulemaking. A number of commenters stated that the underwriting criteria for such products should be aligned with the provisions of the Credit CARD Act and the Bureau's rule on prepaid accounts, and raised questions about the timing calculations on line-of-credit payments.

    In response, the Bureau continues to judge it to be important to address open-end lines of credit in this rule in order to achieve more comprehensive coverage, outside of those lines of credit that are excluded under final Sec. 1041.3(d)(6) as discussed below. In response to many comments, including those urging closer alignment with other standards for assessing ability to repay under other statutory schemes, the Bureau has also modified the underwriting criteria in Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule in a number of respects, as explained further below.

    The Bureau is therefore finalizing Sec. 1041.2(a)(16) largely as proposed, with one substantive clarification that credit products that otherwise meet the definition of open-end credit under Regulation Z should not be excluded from the definition of open-end credit under Sec. 1041.2(a)(16) because they do not involve a finance charge. This change will assure that products are appropriately classified as open-

    end credit under part 1041, rather than as closed-end credit. The Bureau has also revised comment 2(a)(16)-1 to reflect this change and to streamline guidance clarifying that for the purposes of defining open-end credit under part 1041, the term credit, as defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(11), is substituted for the term consumer credit, as defined in 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(12); the term lender, as defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(13), is substituted for the term creditor, as defined in 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(17); and the term consumer, as defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(4), is substituted for the term consumer, as defined in 12 CFR 1026.2(a)(11).

    For all the reasons discussed above, the Bureau is finalizing this definition and the commentary as renumbered and revised.

    2(a)(17) Outstanding Loan

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(15) would have generally defined outstanding loan as a loan that the consumer is legally obligated to repay, except that a loan ceases to be outstanding if the consumer has not made any payments on the loan within the previous 180 days. Under this definition, a loan is an outstanding loan regardless of whether the loan is delinquent or subject to a repayment plan or other workout arrangement if the other elements of the definition are met. Under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(12), a covered short-term loan would be considered to be within the same loan sequence as a previous such loan if it is made within 30 days of the consumer having the previous outstanding loan. Proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6 and 1041.7 would impose certain limitations on lenders making covered short-term loans within loan sequences, including a prohibition on making additional covered short-term loans for 30 days after the third loan in a sequence.

    In the proposal, the Bureau stated that if the consumer has not made any payment on the loan for an extended period of time, it may be appropriate to stop considering the loan to be an outstanding loan for the purposes of various provisions of the proposed rule. Because outstanding loans are counted as major financial obligations for purposes of underwriting and because treating a loan as outstanding would trigger certain restrictions on further borrowing by the consumer under the proposed rule, the Bureau attempted to balance several considerations in crafting the proposed definition. One is whether it would be appropriate for very stale and effectively inactive debt to prevent the consumer from accessing credit, even if so much time has passed that it seems relatively unlikely that the new loan is a direct consequence of the unaffordability of the previous loan. Another is how to define such stale and inactive debt for purposes of any cut-off, and to account for the risk that collections might later be revived or that lenders would intentionally exploit a cut-off in an attempt to encourage new borrowing by consumers.

    The Bureau proposed a 180-day threshold as striking an appropriate balance, and noted that this approach would generally align with the policy position taken by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), which generally requires depository institutions to charge off open-end credit at 180 days of delinquency. Although that policy also requires that closed-end loans be charged off after 120 days, the Bureau found as a preliminary matter that a uniform 180-day rule for both closed-end and open-end loans may be more appropriate, given the underlying policy considerations discussed above, as well as for simplicity.

    Proposed comment 2(a)(15)-1 would clarify that the status of a loan that otherwise meets the definition of outstanding loan does not change based on whether the consumer is required to pay a lender, affiliate, or service provider or whether the lender sells the loan or servicing rights to a third party. Proposed comment 2(a)(15)-2 would clarify that a loan ceases to be an outstanding loan as of the earliest of the date the consumer repays the loan in full, the date the consumer is released from the legal obligation to repay, the date the loan is otherwise legally discharged, or the date that is 180 days following the last payment that the consumer made on the loan. Additionally, proposed comment 2(a)(15)-2 would explain that any payment the consumer makes restarts the 180-day period, regardless of whether the payment is a scheduled payment or in a scheduled amount. Proposed comment 2(a)(15)-2 would further clarify that once a loan is no longer an outstanding loan, subsequent events cannot make the loan an outstanding loan. The Bureau proposed this one-way valve to ease compliance burden on lenders and to reduce the risk of consumer confusion.

    One consumer group commented that, with respect to loans that could include more than one payment, it would be helpful for the definition to refer to an installment in order to ensure its alignment with terms used in State and local laws. Other consumer groups suggested various other changes to clarify details of timing addressed in this definition, as well as urging that the 180-day period should be changed to 365 days so that more loans would be considered as outstanding. Several commented that the definition should be changed so that the 180-day period should run from either the date of the

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    last payment by the consumer or from the date of the last debt collection activity by the collector, in order to more accurately determine what is truly stale debt and to broaden the scope of what loans are outstanding to ensure that older loans are not being used by lenders to encourage consumers to re-borrow. To support compliance under the modified definition, they also urged that lenders be required to report collection activity to the registered information systems.

    The Bureau has concluded that language in final comment 2(a)(17)-2 emphasizing that any payment restarts the 180-day clock is sufficient to address the commenter's concern without having to incorporate new terminology to align the term with its use in State and local laws. With respect to the comments about the time frame, and 365 days in particular, the Bureau was not persuaded of the reasoning or need to broaden the scope of outstanding loans to this extent. The Bureau's proposed 180-day period was already aligned to the longer end of the FFIEC treatment of these issues, by adopting the 180 days that the FFIEC has applied to open-end credit rather than the 120 days that it has applied to closed-end credit. In addition, the Bureau's experience with these markets suggests that these types of lenders typically write off their debts even sooner than 180 days.

    The Bureau concludes that the various suggested changes that were offered to tighten the proposed standard are not necessary to be adopted at this time, though such matters could be revisited over time as supervision and enforcement of the final rule proceed in the future. In particular, the comment that lenders should be required to report collection activity to the registered information systems would have broadened the requirements of the rule and the burdens imposed in significant and unexpected ways that did not seem warranted at this juncture.

    The Bureau also carefully considered the comments made about extending the period of an outstanding loan, which suggested that it should run not just 180 days from the date of the last payment made on the loan but also 180 days from the date of the last debt collection activity on the loan. The Bureau declines to adopt this proposed change, for several reasons. It would add a great deal of complexity that would encumber the rule, not only in terms of ensuring compliance but in terms of carrying out supervision and enforcement responsibilities as well. For example, this modification would appear not to be operational unless debt collection activities were reported to the registered information systems, which as noted above would add significant and unexpected burdens to the existing framework. Moreover, timing the cooling-off period to any debt collection activity could greatly extend how long a consumer would have to wait to re-borrow after walking away from a debt, thereby disrupting the balance the Bureau was seeking to strike in the proposal between these competing objectives. The Bureau also judged that if the comment was aimed at addressing and discouraging certain types of debt collection activities, it would be better addressed in the rulemaking process that the Bureau has initiated separately to govern debt collection issues. Finally, this suggestion seems inconsistent with the Bureau's experience, which indicates that lenders in this market typically cease their own collection efforts within 180 days.

    For these reasons, the Bureau is finalizing this definition as renumbered and the commentary as proposed with minor changes for clarity. The Bureau has also added a sentence to comment 2(a)(17)-2 to expressly state that a loan is outstanding for 180 days after consummation if the consumer does not make any payments on it, the consumer is not otherwise released from the legal obligation to pay, and the loan is not otherwise legally discharged.

    2(a)(18) Service Provider

    Proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(17) would have defined service provider by cross-referencing the definition of that same term in the Dodd-Frank Act, 12 U.S.C. 5481(26). In general, the Dodd-Frank Act defines service provider as any person that provides a material service to a covered person in connection with the offering or provision of a consumer financial product or service, including one that participates in designing, operating, or maintaining the consumer financial product or service or one that processes transactions relating to the consumer financial product or service. Moreover, the Act specifies that the Bureau's authority to identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices through its rulemaking authority applies not only to covered persons, but also to service providers.\431\ Proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) and (d) would provide that a loan is covered under proposed part 1041 if a service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle title and the other coverage criteria are otherwise met.

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    \431\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(a) and (b).

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    The definition of service provider and the provisions in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) and (d) were designed to reflect the fact that in some States, covered loans are extended to consumers through a multi-party transaction. In these transactions, one entity will fund the loan, while a separate entity, often called a credit access business or a credit services organization, will interact directly with, and obtain a fee or fees from, the consumer. This separate entity will often service the loan and guarantee the loan's performance to the party funding the loan. The credit access business or credit services organization, and not the party funding the loan, will in many cases obtain the leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security. In these cases, the credit access business or credit services organization is performing the responsibilities normally performed by a party funding the loan in jurisdictions where this particular business arrangement is not used. Despite the formal division of functions between the nominal lender and the credit access business, the loans produced by such arrangement are functionally the same as those covered loans issued by a single entity and appear to present the same set of consumer protection concerns. Accordingly, the Bureau stated in the proposal that it is appropriate to bring loans made under these arrangements within the scope of coverage of proposed part 1041. Proposed comment 2(a)(17)-1 further made clear that persons who provide a material service to lenders in connection with the lenders' offering or provision of covered loans during the course of obtaining for consumers, or assisting consumers in obtaining, loans from lenders are service providers, subject to the specific limitations in section 1002(26) of the Dodd-Frank Act.

    The Bureau stated that defining the term service provider consistently with the Dodd-Frank Act reduces the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators. Consumer groups commented that the rule should apply to service providers, including credit service organizations and their affiliates, whenever it applies to lenders and their affiliates. The Bureau concludes that the definitions of and references to lender and service provider, including incorporation of the statutory definitions of covered person and service provider into the regulatory definitions, throughout the regulation text and commentary are sufficiently well articulated to make these points clear as to the applicability and scope of coverage of part 1041. Both section 1031(a) and section 1036(a) of the Dodd-

    Frank Act specify that a service provider

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    can be held liable on the same terms as a covered person--which includes a lender as defined by Sec. 1041.2(13)--to the extent that a service provider engages in conduct that violates this rule on behalf of a lender, or entities such as credit access businesses and credit service organizations that provide a material service to a lender in making these kinds of covered loans.\432\ The Bureau did not receive any other comments on this portion of the proposal and is finalizing this definition and the commentary as just discussed and as renumbered.

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    \432\ See 12 U.S.C. 5531(a) (providing that the Bureau may take any action authorized under subtitle E of the Act (i.e., Enforcement powers) to prevent a covered person or service provider from committing or engaging in an unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice under Federal law in connection with any transaction with a consumer for a consumer financial product or service, or the offering of a consumer financial product or service); 12 U.S.C. 5536(a) (equating covered persons and service providers for purposes of prohibited acts in violation of Federal consumer financial law, including liability for violations for engaging in ``any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice'').

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    2(a)(19) Vehicle Security

    The Bureau has decided to make ``vehicle security'' a defined term, incorporating language that described the practice of taking vehicle security from proposed Sec. 1041.3(d). Its role is now more limited, however, due to other changes in the rule, which no longer governs the underwriting of covered longer-term loans (other than balloon-payment loans), which instead are now subject only to the payment provisions. Nonetheless, the Bureau is preserving the language explaining vehicle security and moving it here for purposes of defining the exclusion of vehicle title loans from coverage under Sec. 1041.6 of the final rule, which provides for conditionally exempted loans.

    As to the definition itself, the proposal would have stated that for purposes of defining a covered loan, a lender or service provider obtains vehicle security if it obtains an interest in a consumer's motor vehicle (as defined in section 1029(f)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act) as a condition of the credit, regardless of how the transaction is characterized by State law, including: (1) Any security interest in the motor vehicle, motor vehicle title, or motor vehicle registration whether or not the security interest is perfected or recorded; or (2) a pawn transaction in which the consumer's motor vehicle is the pledged good and the consumer retains use of the motor vehicle during the period of the pawn agreement. Under the proposal, the lender or service provider would obtain vehicle security if the consumer is required, under the terms of an agreement with the lender or service provider, to grant an interest in the consumer's vehicle to the lender in the event that the consumer does not repay the loan.

    As noted in the proposal, because of exclusions contained in proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(1) and (5), the term vehicle security would have excluded loans made solely and expressly for the purpose of financing a consumer's initial purchase of a motor vehicle in which the lender takes a security interest as a condition of the credit, as well as non-recourse pawn loans in which the lender has sole physical possession and use of the property for the entire term of the loan. Proposed comment 3(d)(1)-1 also would have clarified that mechanic liens and other situations in which a party obtains a security interest in a consumer's motor vehicle for a reason that is unrelated to an extension of credit do not trigger coverage.

    The Bureau proposed that the security interest would not need to be perfected or recorded in order to trigger coverage under proposed Sec. 1041.3(d)(1). The Bureau reasoned that consumers may not be aware that the security interest is not perfected or recorded, nor would it matter in many cases. Perfection or recordation protects the lender's interest in the vehicle against claims asserted by other creditors, but does not necessarily affect whether the consumer's interest in the vehicle is at risk if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan. Even if the lender or service provider does not perfect or record its security interest, the security interest can still change a lender's incentives to determine the consumer's ability to repay the loan and exacerbate the harms the consumer experiences if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan.

    The Bureau received many comments on the prong of the definition that focused on the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security, again often in the context of application of the underwriting requirements rather than the payment requirements. Those concerns have largely been addressed or mooted by the Bureau's decisions to apply only the payment requirements to covered longer-term loans and to narrow the definition of such loans to focus only on those types of leveraged payment mechanisms that involve the ability to pull money from consumers' accounts, rather than vehicle security. Comments focusing on that narrower definition of leveraged payment mechanism are addressed in more depth in connection with Sec. 1041.3(c) below.

    Importantly, the term vehicle security as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) was further limited in its effect by the provisions of proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(3)(ii), which had stated that a lender or service provider did not become subject to the proposed underwriting criteria merely by obtaining vehicle security at any time, but instead had to obtain vehicle security before, at the same time as, or within 72 hours after the consumer receives the entire amount of funds that the consumer is entitled to receive under the loan. Many commenters criticized the 72-hour requirement as undermining consumer protections and fostering evasion of the rule. Because of various changes that have occurred in revising the coverage of the underwriting criteria and reordering certain provisions in the final rule, this limitation is no longer necessary to effectuate any of those purposes of the rule. The definition of vehicle security remains relevant to the provisions of Sec. 1041.6 of the final rule, but it is unclear how a 72-hour limitation is germane to establishing the scope of coverage under that section, and so it has been eliminated from the final rule.

    One consumer group suggested that a vehicle title loan should be covered under the rule regardless of whether the title was a condition of the loan. The Bureau does not find it necessary to alter the definition in this manner in order to accomplish the purpose of covering vehicle title loans, particularly in light of the language in comment 2(a)(19)-1, which indicates that vehicle security will attach to the vehicle for reasons that are related to the extension of credit.

    With respect to comments on the details of the definition of vehicle security, one commenter had suggested that the final rule should make clear that the proposed restrictions on this form of security interest do not interfere with or prohibit any statutory liens that have been authorized by Congress. Because nothing in the language of the final rule purports to create any such interference or prohibition, the Bureau does not find it necessary to modify its definition of vehicle security in this regard. Other commenters made various points about the meaning and coverage of the term motor vehicle in the Bureau's treatment of the term vehicle security. Those comments are addressed separately in the discussion of the definition of motor vehicle in Sec. 1041.2(a)(15) of the final rule.

    The Bureau has moved the discussion of vehicle security from proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) to Sec. 1041.2(a)(19) in the

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    general definitions section, and has narrowed the definition of motor vehicle contained in section 1029(f)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Act, replacing it with the somewhat narrower definition of motor vehicle contained in Sec. 1041.2(a)(15) of the final rule as described above. The definition of vehicle security still includes the other elements of the proposal, as slightly rewritten for clarity to focus on this term itself rather than on the actions of a lender or service provider.

    Accordingly, the term vehicle security is defined in the final rule as an interest in a consumer's motor vehicle obtained by the lender or service provider as a condition of the credit, regardless of how the transaction is characterized by State law, including: (1) Any security interest in the motor vehicle, motor vehicle title, or motor vehicle registration whether or not the security interest is perfected or recorded; or (2) a pawn transaction in which the consumer's motor vehicle is the pledged good and the consumer retains use of the motor vehicle during the period of the pawn agreement. This definition also carries with it proposed comment 3(d)(1)-1, now finalized as comment 2(a)(19)-1, which explains that an interest in a consumer's motor vehicle is a condition of credit only to the extent the security interest is obtained in connection with the credit, and not for a reason that is unrelated to an extension of credit, such as the attachment of a mechanic's lien. This comment is finalized with the language unchanged.\433\

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    \433\ Two definitions in the proposal are no longer operative and so have been omitted from the final rule. First, proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(13) would have defined the term non-covered bridge loan. Second, proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(16) would have defined the term prepayment penalty. Because the Bureau is not finalizing the portions of the proposed rule on underwriting of covered longer-term loans at this time, along with other changes made in Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.6 of the final rule governing the underwriting and provision of covered short-term loans, these two definitions and the related commentary are being omitted from the final rule.

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    2(b) Rule of Construction

    After reserving this provision in the proposal, the Bureau has determined to add a rule of construction for purposes of part 1041, which states that where definitions are incorporated from other statutes or regulations, the terms have the meaning and incorporate the embedded definitions, appendices, and commentary from those other laws except to the extent that part 1041 provides a different definition for a parallel term. The Bureau had included versions of this basic principle in the regulation text and commentary for certain individual provisions of the proposed rule, but has concluded that it would be helpful to memorialize it as a general rule of construction. Accordingly, the Bureau moved certain proposed commentary for individual definitions to comment 2(b)-1 of the final rule in order to provide examples of the rule of construction, and streamlined certain other proposed commentary as described above.

    Section 1041.3 Scope of Coverage; Exclusions; Exemptions

    The primary purpose of proposed part 1041 was to identify and adopt rules to prevent unfair and abusive practices as defined in section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act in connection with certain consumer credit transactions. Based upon its research, outreach, and analysis of available data, the Bureau proposed to identify such practices with respect to two categories of loans to which it proposed to apply this rule: (1) Consumer loans with a duration of 45 days or less; and (2) consumer loans with a duration of more than 45 days that have a total cost of credit above a certain threshold and that are either repayable directly from the consumer's income stream, as set forth in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c), or are secured by the consumer's motor vehicle, as set forth in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d).

    In the proposal, the Bureau tentatively concluded that it is an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make a covered short-term loan without determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan. The Bureau likewise tentatively concluded that it is an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make a covered longer-term loan without determining the consumer's ability to repay the loan. Accordingly, the Bureau proposed to apply the protections of proposed part 1041 to both categories of loans.

    In particular, proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.9 would have required that, before making a covered loan, a lender must determine that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan. Proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6 and 1041.10 would have imposed certain limitations on repeat borrowing, depending on the type of covered loan. Proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.7, 1041.11, and 1041.12 would have provided for alternative requirements that would allow lenders to make covered loans, in certain limited situations, without first determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan. Proposed Sec. 1041.14 would have imposed consumer protections related to repeated lender-

    initiated attempts to withdraw payments from consumers' accounts in connection with covered loans. Proposed Sec. 1041.15 would have required lenders to provide notices to consumers before attempting to withdraw payments on covered loans from consumers' accounts. Proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.16 and 1041.17 would have required lenders to check and report borrowing history and loan information to certain information systems with respect to most covered loans. Proposed Sec. 1041.18 would have required lenders to keep certain records on the covered loans that they make. And proposed Sec. 1041.19 would have prohibited actions taken to evade the requirements of proposed part 1041.

    The Bureau did not propose to extend coverage to several other types of loans and specifically proposed excluding, to the extent they would otherwise be covered under proposed Sec. 1041.3, certain purchase money security interest loans, certain loans secured by real estate, credit cards, student loans, non-recourse pawn loans, and overdraft services and lines of credit. The Bureau likewise proposed not to cover loans that have a term of longer than 45 days if they are not secured by a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security or if they have a total cost of credit below a rate of 36 percent per annum.

    By finalizing application of the underwriting requirements with respect to certain categories of loans as described above, and excluding certain other types of loans from the reach of the rule, the Bureau does not mean to signal any definitive conclusion that it could not be an unfair or abusive practice to make any other types of loans, such as loans that are not covered by part 1041, without reasonably assessing a consumer's ability to repay. Moreover, this rule does not supersede or limit any protections imposed by other laws, such as the Military Lending Act and implementing regulations. The coverage limits in the rule simply reflect the fact that these are the types of loans the Bureau has studied in depth to date and has chosen to address within the scope of the proposal. Indeed, the Bureau issued, concurrently with the proposal, a Request for Information (RFI), which solicited information and evidence to help assess whether there are other categories of loans for which lenders do not determine the consumer's ability to repay that may pose risks to consumers. The Bureau also sought comment in response to the RFI as to whether other lender practices associated with covered loans may warrant further action by the Bureau.

    The Bureau thus is reinforcing the point that all covered persons within the meaning of the Dodd-Frank Act have

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    a legal duty not to engage in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. The Bureau is explicitly authorized to consider, on a case-

    by-case basis, through its supervisory or enforcement activities, whether practices akin to those addressed here are unfair, deceptive, or abusive in connection with loans not covered by the rule. The Bureau also is emphasizing that it may decide to engage in future rulemaking with respect to other types of loans or other types of practices associated with covered loans at a later date.

    3(a) General

    In proposed Sec. 1041.3(a), the Bureau provided that proposed part 1041 would apply to a lender that makes covered loans. The Bureau received no specific comments on proposed Sec. 1041.3(a), and is finalizing this provision as proposed except that it has adopted language as discussed above in connection with the definition of lender in Sec. 1041.2(a)(13) to refer to a person who ``extends credit by making covered loans.''

    3(b) Covered Loan

    In the proposal, the Bureau noted that section 1031(b) of the Dodd-

    Frank Act empowers it to prescribe rules to identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices associated with consumer financial products or services. Section 1002(5) of the Dodd-

    Frank Act defines such products or services as those offered or provided for use by consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes or, in certain circumstances, those delivered, offered, or provided in connection with another such consumer financial product or service. Proposed Sec. 1041.3(b) would have provided, generally, that a covered loan means closed-end or open-end credit that is extended to a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that is not excluded by Sec. 1041.3(e).

    By proposing to apply the rule only to loans that are extended to consumers primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, the Bureau intended it not to apply to loans that are made primarily for a business, commercial, or agricultural purpose. But the proposal explained that a lender would violate proposed part 1041 if it extended a loan ostensibly for a business purpose and failed to comply with the requirements of proposed part 1041 for a loan that is, in fact, primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. In this regard, the Bureau referenced the section-by-section analysis of proposed Sec. 1041.19, which provided further discussion of evasion issues.

    Proposed comment 3(b)-1 would have clarified that whether a loan is covered is generally based on the loan terms at the time of consummation. Proposed comment 3(b)-2 would have clarified that a loan could be a covered loan regardless of whether it is structured as open-

    end or closed-end credit. Proposed comment 3(b)-3 would have explained that the test for determining the primary purpose of a loan is the same as the test prescribed by Regulation Z Sec. 1026.3(a) and clarified by the related commentary in supplement I to part 1026. The Bureau stated that lenders are already familiar with the Regulation Z test and that it would be appropriate to apply that same test here to maintain consistency in interpretation across credit markets, though the Bureau also requested comment on whether more tailored guidance would be useful here as the related commentary in supplement I to part 1026, on which lenders would be permitted to rely in interpreting proposed Sec. 1041.3(b), did not discuss particular situations that may arise in the markets that would be covered by proposed part 1041.

    One commenter noted that while business loans are outside the scope of the rule, many small business owners use their personal vehicles to secure title loans for their businesses, and asserted that it will be difficult for lenders to differentiate the purposes of a loan in such instances. Another commenter suggested that provisions should be added to ensure that loans are made for personal use only. More generally, one commenter stated that the breadth of the definition of covered loan would enhance the burden that the proposed rule would impose on credit unions.

    In response, the Bureau notes that its experience with these markets has made it aware that the distinction between business and household purposes is necessarily fact-specific, yet the basic distinction is embedded as a jurisdictional matter in many consumer financial laws and has long been regarded as a sensible line to draw. Further, the concern about the breadth of this definition as affecting credit unions is addressed substantially by the measures adopted in the final rule to reduce burdens for lenders, along with the exclusions and exemptions that have been adopted, including the conditional exemption for alternative loans.

    The Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b) as proposed. The commentary is finalized as proposed, except proposed comment 3(b)-1, which the Bureau is not finalizing. That comment had proposed that whether a loan is covered is generally determined based on the loan terms at the time of consummation. As noted below, final comment 3(b)(3)-3 makes clear that a loan may become a covered longer-term loan at any such time as both requirements of Sec. 1041.3(b)(3)(i) and (ii) are met, even if they were not met when the loan was initially made.

    3(b)(1)

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) would have brought within the scope of proposed part 1041 those loans in which the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount due under the loan within 45 days of either consummation or the advance of loan proceeds. Loans of this type, as they exist in the market today, typically take the form of single-payment loans, including payday loans, vehicle title loans, and deposit advance products. However, coverage under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) was not limited to single-payment products, but rather included any single-advance loan with a term of 45 days or less and any multi-advance loan where repayment is required within 45 days of a credit draw.\434\ Under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(6), this type of covered loan was defined as a covered short-term loan.

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    \434\ While application of the 45-day duration limit for covered short-term loans varies based on whether the loan is a single- or multiple-advance loan, the Bureau often used the phrase ``within 45 days of consummation'' throughout the proposal and in the final rule as a shorthand way of referring to coverage criteria of both types of loans.

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    Specifically, proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) prescribed different tests for determining whether a loan is a covered short-term loan based on whether or not the loan is closed-end credit that does not provide for multiple advances to consumers. For this type of credit, a loan would be a covered short-term loan if the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount of the loan within 45 days of consummation. For all other types of loans, a loan would be a covered short-term loan if the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount of an advance within 45 days of the advance.

    As proposed comment 3(b)(1)-1 explained, a loan does not provide for multiple advances to a consumer if the loan provides for full disbursement of the loan proceeds only through disbursement on a single specific date. The Bureau stated that a different test to determine whether a loan is a covered short-term loan is appropriate for loans that provide for multiple advances to consumers, because open-end credit and closed-end credit providing for multiple advances may be consummated long

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    before the consumer incurs debt that must be repaid. If, for example, the consumer waited more than 45 days after consummation to draw on an open-end line, but the loan agreement required the consumer to repay the full amount of the draw within 45 days of the draw, the loan would not be practically different than a closed-end loan repayable within 45 days of consummation. The Bureau preliminarily found that it is appropriate to treat the loans the same for the purposes of proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1).

    As the Bureau described in part II of the proposal, the terms of short-term loans are often tied to the date the consumer receives his or her paycheck or benefits payment. While pay periods typically vary from one week to one month, and expense cycles are typically one month, the Bureau proposed 45 days as the upper bound for covered short-term loans in order to accommodate loans that are made shortly before a consumer's monthly income is received and that extend beyond the immediate income payment to the next income payment. These circumstances could result in loans that are somewhat longer than a month in duration, but the Bureau believed that they nonetheless pose similar risks of harm to consumers as loans with durations of a month or less.

    The Bureau also considered proposing to define covered short-term loans as loans that are substantially repayable within either 30 days of consummation or advance, 60 days of consummation or advance, or 90 days of consummation or advance. The Bureau, nonetheless, did not propose the 30-day period because, as described above, some loans for some consumers who are paid on a monthly basis can be slightly longer than 30 days, yet still would essentially constitute a one-pay-cycle, one-expense-cycle loan. The Bureau stated that it did not propose either the 60-day or 90-day period because loans with those terms encompass multiple income and expense cycles, and thus may present somewhat different risks to consumers, though such loans would have been covered longer-term loans if they met the criteria set forth in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2).

    As discussed in the proposal, the Bureau proposed to treat longer-

    term loans, as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2), as covered loans only if the total cost of credit exceeds a rate of 36 percent per annum and if the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) and (d). The Bureau did not propose similar limitations with respect to the definition of covered short-term loans because the evidence available to the Bureau seemed to suggest that the structure and short-

    term nature of these loans give rise to consumer harm even in the absence of costs above the 36 percent threshold or particular means of repayment.

    Proposed comment 3(b)(1)-2 noted that both open-end credit and closed-end credit may provide for multiple advances to consumers. The comment explained that open-end credit is self-replenishing even though the plan itself has a fixed expiration date, as long as during the plan's existence the consumer may use the line, repay, and reuse the credit. Likewise, closed-end credit may consist of a series of advances. For example, under a closed-end commitment, the lender might agree to lend a fixed total amount in a series of advances as needed by the consumer, and once the consumer has borrowed the maximum, no more is advanced under that particular agreement, even if there has been repayment of a portion of the debt.

    Proposed comment 3(b)(1)-3 explained that a determination of whether a loan is substantially repayable within 45 days requires assessment of the specific facts and circumstances of the loan. Proposed comment 3(b)(1)-4 provided guidance on determining whether loans that have alternative, ambiguous, or unusual payment schedules would fall within the definition. The comment explained that the key principle in determining whether a loan would be a covered short-term loan or a covered longer-term loan is whether, under applicable law, the consumer would be considered to be in breach of the terms of the loan agreement if the consumer failed to repay substantially the entire amount of the loan within 45 days of consummation.

    As noted above, Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) provides the substance of the definition of covered short-term loan as referenced in Sec. 1041.2(a)(10) of the final rule. The limited comments on this provision are presented and addressed in the section-by-section analysis of that definition. For the reasons stated there, the Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) as proposed, with only non-substantive language changes. One modification has been made in the commentary, however, to address comments received about deposit advance products. New comment 3(b)(1)-4 in the final rule states that a loan or advance is substantially repayable within 45 days of consummation or advance if the lender has the right to be repaid through a sweep or withdrawal of any qualifying electronic deposit made into the consumer's account within 45 days of consummation or advance. A loan or advance described in this paragraph is substantially repayable within 45 days of consummation or advance even if no qualifying electronic deposit is actually made into or withdrawn by the lender from the consumer's account. This comment was added to address more explicitly a deposit advance product in which the lender can claim all the income coming in to the account, as it comes in, for the purpose of repaying the loan, regardless of whether income in fact comes in during the first 45 days after a particular advance. Proposed comment 3(b)(1)-4 thus has been renumbered as comment 3(b)(1)-5 of the final rule.

    3(b)(2)

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) would have brought within the scope of proposed part 1041 several types of loans for which, in contrast to loans covered under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(1), the consumer is not required to repay substantially the entire amount of the loan or advance within 45 days of consummation or advance. Specifically, proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) extended coverage to longer-term loans with a total cost of credit exceeding a rate of 36 percent per annum if the lender or service provider also obtains a leveraged payment mechanism as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) or vehicle security as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) in connection with the loan before, at the same time, or within 72 hours after the consumer receives the entire amount of funds that the consumer is entitled to receive. Under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(8), this type of covered loan would be defined as a covered longer-term loan.

    As discussed above in connection with Sec. 1041.2(a)(7), the Bureau defined a sub-category of covered longer-term loans that would be subject to certain tailored provisions in proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.6, 1041.9, and 1041.10 because they involved balloon-payment structures that the Bureau believed posed particular risks to consumers. The Bureau proposed to cover such longer-term balloon-

    payment loans only if they exceeded the general rate threshold and involved leveraged payment mechanisms or vehicle security, but specifically sought comment on whether such products should be subject to the rule more generally in light of the particular concerns about balloon payment structures.

    In light of the Bureau's decision to differentiate which parts of the rule apply to longer-term balloon-payment loans and more generally to longer-term

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    loans, the Bureau has decided to make the two categories mutually exclusive and to describe them separately in Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) and (3) of the final rule, respectively. Accordingly, the Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) to define longer-term balloon-payment loans, incorporating the language of proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) as further revised in various respects.

    First, for purposes of greater clarity in ordering Sec. 1041.3(b) of the final rule, the Bureau is separating out its treatment of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans (in Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)) from its treatment of all other covered longer-term loans (in Sec. 1041.3(b)(3)). As described in greater detail below in Market Concerns--Underwriting and in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.4, the Bureau has decided to restructure these provisions in this way because it has decided in the final rule to subject covered longer-

    term balloon-payment loans both to the underwriting criteria and the payment requirements of the final rule, but to apply only the payment requirements to other types of covered longer-term loans.

    This organization reflects in part the comments received from industry and trade groups who contended that the Bureau's concerns about re-borrowing for covered longer-term loans were most applicable to loans with balloon-payment structures. They therefore argued that any ability-to-repay restrictions and underwriting criteria should be limited to longer-term balloon-payment loans. These comments reinforced the Bureau's preliminary view that concerns about the re-borrowing of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans were most similar to the concerns it had about the re-borrowing of covered short-term loans. As described more fully below in the section on Market Concerns--

    Underwriting, the Bureau has observed longer-term loans involving balloon payments where the lender does not reasonably assess the borrower's ability to repay before making the loan, and has observed in these circumstances the same types of consumer harms that it has observed when lenders fail to make a reasonable assessment of the borrower's ability to repay before making covered short-term loans. Nonetheless, the Bureau also maintains its concerns about lender practices in the market for other covered longer-term loans, and emphasizes that it retains supervision and enforcement authority to oversee such lenders for unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.

    As discussed further below, for a number of reasons the Bureau has decided not to address the underwriting of all covered longer-term loans at this time. Nonetheless, as discussed above in the section-by-

    section analysis of Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) of the final rule, the Bureau is concerned that covered longer-term balloon-payment loans have a loan structure that poses many of the same risks and harms to consumers as with covered short-term loans, and could be adapted in some manner as a loan product intended to circumvent the underwriting criteria for covered short-term loans. Therefore, in Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule, the specific underwriting criteria that apply to covered short-term loans are, with certain modifications, made applicable to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans also (without regard to interest rate or the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism). And along with other covered longer-term loans, these loans remain covered by the sections of the final rule on payment practices as well.

    Given this resolution of the considerations raised by the comments and based on the Bureau's further consideration and analysis of the market, the Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) in parallel with Sec. 1041.3(b)(1), since both types of loans--covered short-term loans and covered longer-term balloon loans--are subject to the same underwriting criteria and payment requirements as prescribed in the final rule.

    As noted above in the discussion of Sec. 1041.2(a)(7), in conjunction with making the definition of covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loan into a separate category in its own right rather than a subcategory of the general definition of covered longer-term loan, the Bureau has decided to subject such loans to an expansion in scope as compared to the proposal, since longer-term balloon-payment loans are now being covered by both the underwriting and payment provisions of the final rule without regard to whether the loans exceed a particular threshold for the cost of credit or involve the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security. The Bureau had specifically sought comment as to whether to cover longer-term balloon-payment loans regardless of these two conditions, and has concluded that it is appropriate to do so in light of concerns about the risks and harms that balloon-payment structures pose to consumers and of potential industry evolution to circumvent the rule, as set out more extensively below in Market Concerns--Underwriting.

    The Bureau has also revised the definition of covered longer-term balloon-payment loan to address different types of loan structures in more detail. As discussed above in connection with Sec. 1041.2(a)(7), the proposal would generally have defined the term to include loans that require repayment in a single payment or that require at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s) under the loan. The Bureau based the twice-as-large threshold on the definition of balloon payment under Regulation Z, but with some modification in details. However, the Bureau did not expressly address whether covered longer-term balloon-payment loans could be both closed-

    end and open-end credit.

    After further consideration of the policy concerns that prompted the Bureau to apply the underwriting requirements in subpart B to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, the Bureau has concluded that it is appropriate to define that term to include both closed-end and open-end loans that involve the kinds of large irregular payments that were described in the proposed definition. In light of the fact that such loans could be structured a number of ways, the Bureau finds it helpful for purposes of implementation and compliance to build out the definition to more expressly address different types of structures. The Bureau has done this by structuring Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) to be similar to the covered-short-term definition in Sec. 1041.3(b)(1), but with longer time frames and descriptions of additional potential payment structures.

    Specifically, the revised definition for covered longer-term balloon-payment loans separately addresses closed-end loans that do not provide for multiple advances from other loans (both closed-end and open-end) that do involve multiple advances. With regard to the former set of loans, Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)(i) defines a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan to include those where the consumer is required to repay the entire balance of the loan more than 45 days after consummation in a single payment or to repay such loan through at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s). With regard to multiple-advance loans, the revised definition focuses on either of two types of payment structures. Under the first structure, the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount of an advance more than 45 days after the advance is made or is required to make at least one payment on the advance that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s). Under the second structure, the consumer is paying the required minimum payments but may not fully amortize the outstanding balance by a specified date

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    or time, and the amount of the final payment to repay the outstanding balance at such time could be more than twice the amount of other minimum payments under the plan.

    The contours of this definition are thus very similar to those for covered short-term loans, which pose the same kinds of risks and harms for consumers, and its focus on payments that are more than twice as large as other payments is generally consistent with how balloon-

    payment loans are defined and treated under Regulation Z. The Bureau believes retaining that payment size threshold will promote consistency and reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators.

    Along with finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) as just stated, the Bureau has also built out the related commentary to incorporate the original commentary to proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) and concepts that were already used in the definition of covered short-term loan, as well as to elaborate further on language that has been added to the final rule. As now adopted, comment 3(b)(2)-1 specifies that a closed-end loan is considered to be a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan if the consumer must repay the entire amount of the loan in a single payment which is due more than 45 days after the loan was consummated, or to repay substantially the entire amount of any advance in a single payment more than 45 days after the funds on the loan were advanced, or is required to pay at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s). Comment 3(b)(2)-2 states that for purposes of Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)(i) and (ii), all required payments of principal and any charges (or charges only, depending on the loan features) due under the loan are used to determine whether a particular payment is more than twice as large as another payment, regardless of whether the payments have changed during the loan term due to rate adjustments or other payment changes permitted or required under the loan. Comment 3(b)(2)-3 discusses charges for actual unanticipated late payments, for exceeding a credit limit, or for delinquency, default, or a similar occurrence that may be added to a payment, and notes that they are excluded from the determination of whether the loan is repayable in a single payment or a particular payment is more than twice as large as another payment. Likewise, sums that are accelerated and due upon default are excluded from the determination of whether the loan is repayable in a single payment or a particular payment is more than twice as large as another payment. These three comments are based on prior comments to proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(7), with certain revisions made for consistency and form.

    Comment 3(b)(2)-4 is new and provides that open-end loans are considered to be covered longer-term balloon-payment loans under Sec. 1041.3(b)(2)(ii) if: either the loan has a billing cycle with more than 45 days and the full balance is due in each billing period, or the credit plan is structured such that paying the required minimum payment may not fully amortize the outstanding balance by a specified date or time, and the amount of the final payment to repay the outstanding balance at such time could be more than twice the amount of other minimum payments under the plan. An example is provided to show how this works for an open-end loan, in light of particular credit limits, monthly billing cycles, minimum payments due, fees or interest, and payments made, to determine whether the credit plan is a covered loan and why.

    3(b)(3)

    As noted above, proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) encompassed both covered longer-term balloon-payment loans and certain other covered longer-term loans. Because the Bureau is finalizing a separate definition of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans in Sec. 1041.3(b)(2), new Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) of the final rule addresses covered loans that are neither covered short-term loans nor covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, but rather are covered longer-term loans that are only subject to provisions of the rule relating to payment practices.

    Specifically, proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) would have extended coverage to longer-term loans with a total cost of credit exceeding a rate of 36 percent per annum if the lender or service provider also obtains a leveraged payment mechanism as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) or vehicle security as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) in connection with the loan before, at the same time, or within 72 hours after the consumer receives the entire amount of funds that the consumer is entitled to receive. Under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(8), this type of covered loan would have been defined as a covered longer-

    term loan.

    The Bureau received extensive comments on covered longer-term loans, but key changes in the final rule mitigate most of the points made in those comments. As discussed above in connection with Sec. 1041.2(a)(8), many commenters offered views on the prongs of the definition of covered longer-term loan as triggers for whether such loans should be subject not only to the payment requirements of part 1041 but also its underwriting requirements. As just discussed above and discussed more fully in part I and in Market Concerns--

    Underwriting, the Bureau has decided not to apply these underwriting requirements to longer-term loans unless they involve balloon payments as defined in Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) and 1041.3(b)(2). However, the Bureau believes that such longer-term loans may still pose substantial risk to consumers with regard to certain lender payment practices, and therefore is finalizing subpart C of the rule to apply to covered longer-term loans. It thus remains relevant to describe the parameters of such loans in Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) of the final rule, which continues to provide the substantive content for the parallel definition of covered longer-term loans in Sec. 1041.2(a)(8) of the final rule.

    In light of this decision about the policy interventions, the Bureau has also decided to narrow the definition of covered longer-term loans relative to the proposal both by relaxing the rate threshold and narrowing the focus to only loans involving the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism. Thus, Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) of the final rule defines covered longer-term loans as loans that do not meet the definition of covered short-term loans under Sec. 1041.3(b)(1) or of covered longer-

    term balloon-payment loans under Sec. 1401.3(b)(2); for all remaining covered loans, two further limitations that were contained in the proposed rule apply, so that a loan only becomes a covered longer-term loan if both of the following conditions are also satisfied: The cost of credit for the loan exceeds a rate of 36 percent per annum, as measured in specified ways; and the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism as defined in Sec. 1041.3(c) of the final rule.

    As described above in connection with the definition of cost of credit in Sec. 1041.2(a)(6), the Bureau has decided to relax the rate threshold in the final rule by basing the threshold on the annual percentage rate as defined in Regulation Z rather than the total cost of credit concept used in the Military Lending Act. The final rule retains the numeric threshold of 36 percent, however, since, as the proposal explained more fully, that annual rate is grounded in many established precedents of Federal and State law.

    With regard to the taking of leveraged payment mechanisms or vehicle security as part of the definition of covered longer-term loan, as discussed in more detail below in connection with

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    Sec. 1041.3(c), the Bureau has narrowed the definition to focus solely on loans that involve types of leveraged payment mechanisms that enable a lender to pull funds directly from a consumer's account. Accordingly, a loan that involves vehicle security may be a covered longer-term loan if it involves a leveraged payment mechanism under Sec. 1041.3(c), but not because it involves vehicle security in its own right.

    The final rule also modifies and clarifies certain details of timing about when status as a covered longer-term loan is determined, in light of the fact that such loans are only subject to the payment requirements under the final rule. With regard to the rate threshold, it is measured at the time of consummation for closed-end credit. For open-end credit, it is measured at consummation and, if the cost of credit at consummation is not more than 36 percent per annum, again at the end of each billing cycle for open-end credit. Once open-end credit meets the threshold, it is treated as doing so for the duration of the plan. The rule also provides a rule for calculating the cost of credit in any billing cycle in which a lender imposes a charge included in the cost of credit where the principal balance is $0. The definition of leveraged payment mechanisms is also truncated, as mechanisms based on access to employer payments or payroll deduction repayments are no longer germane to a policy intervention that is limited solely to the payment practices in Sec. 1041.8 of the final rule. Also, vehicle security is no longer relevant to determining coverage of longer-term loans. The Bureau has also omitted language providing a 72-hour window for determining coverage as a longer-term loan from the final rule, as that was driven largely by the need for certainty on underwriting. In short, the two major modifications to this provision as it had been set forth in the proposal are further clarification of how the 36 percent rate is measured for open-end credit and the removal of any references to vehicle security and other employment-based sources of repayment.

    The commentary to proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) has been extensively revised in light of the other restructuring that has occurred in Sec. 1041.3(b) of the final rule. To summarize briefly, comments 3(b)(3)-1 to 3(b)(3)-3 and 3(b)(3)(ii)-1 to 3(b)(3)(ii)-2 largely recapitulate the provisions of Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) of the final rule in greater detail, as well as clarifying their practical application through a series of examples. Two key points of clarification, however, concern timing. First, comment 3(b)(3)-3 makes clear that a loan may become a covered longer-term loan at any such time as both requirements of Sec. 1041.3(b)(3)(i) and (ii) are met, even if they were not met when the loan was initially made. Second, comment 3(b)(3)(ii)-1 states that the condition in Sec. 1041.3(b)(3)(ii) is satisfied if a lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism before, at the same time as, or after the consumer receives the entire amount of funds that the consumer is entitled to receive under the loan, regardless of the means by which the lender or service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism.

    For the reasons stated in view of the comments, the Bureau is finalizing Sec. 1041.3(b)(3) and the commentary as described above.

    3(c) Leveraged Payment Mechanism

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(c) would have set forth three ways that a lender or a service provider could obtain a leveraged payment mechanism that, if other conditions were met under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2), would bring a longer-term loan within the proposed coverage of proposed part 1041. Specifically, the proposal would have treated a lender as having obtained a leveraged payment mechanism if the lender or service provider had the right to initiate a transfer of money from the consumer's account to repay the loan, the contractual right to obtain payment from the consumer's employer or other payor of expected income, or required the consumer to repay the loan through payroll deduction or deduction from another source of income. In all three cases, the consumer would be required, under the terms of an agreement with the lender or service provider, to cede autonomy over the consumer's account or income stream in a way that the Bureau believed, as stated in the proposal, would change incentives to determine the consumer's ability to repay the loan and can exacerbate the harms the consumer experiences if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan and still meet the consumer's basic living expenses and major financial obligations. As explained in the section-by-section analysis of proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.8 and 1041.9, the Bureau preliminarily found that it is an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make such a loan without determining that the consumer has the ability to repay.

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) generally would have provided that a lender or a service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism if it has the right to initiate a transfer of money, through any means, from a consumer's account (as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(1)) to satisfy an obligation on a loan. For example, this would occur with a post-dated check or preauthorization for recurring electronic fund transfers. However, the proposed regulation did not define leveraged payment mechanism to include situations in which the lender or service provider initiates a one-time electronic fund transfer immediately after the consumer authorizes such transfer.

    In the proposal, the functionality of this determination was that it served as one of three preconditions to the underwriting of such covered longer-term loans, along with the provisions of proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(2) and (3). In light of other changes to the proposed rule, however, the final rule is no longer covering the underwriting of covered longer-term loans (other than balloon-payment loans), but simply determining whether they are subject to the intervention for payment practices in Sec. 1041.8 of the final rule. As described above, as a result of the decision to apply only the rule's payment requirements to covered-longer term loans, the Bureau is not finalizing the provisions of proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(2) and (3), which covered payment directly from the employer and repayment through payroll deduction, respectively, as they are no longer germane to the purpose of this policy intervention. With the elimination of those two provisions, Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) is being reorganized more simply as just part of Sec. 1041.3(c) of the final rule to focus on forms of leveraged payment mechanism that involve direct access to consumers' transaction accounts.

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) generally would have provided that a lender or a service provider obtains a leveraged payment mechanism if it has the right to initiate a transfer of money, through any means, from a consumer's account (as defined in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(1)) to satisfy an obligation on a loan. For example, this would occur with a post-dated check or preauthorization for recurring electronic fund transfers. However, the proposed regulation did not define leveraged payment mechanism to include situations in which the lender or service provider initiates a one-time electronic fund transfer immediately after the consumer authorizes such transfer.

    As proposed comment 3(c)(1)-1 explained, the key principle that makes a payment mechanism leveraged is whether the lender has the ability to ``pull'' funds from a consumer's account without any intervening action or further assent by the consumer. In those cases, the lender's ability to pull

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    payments from the consumer's account gives the lender the ability to time and initiate is to coincide with expected income flows into the consumer's account. This means that the lender may be able to continue to obtain payment (as long as the consumer receives income and maintains the account) even if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan while meeting his or her major financial obligations and basic living expenses. In contrast, the Bureau stated in the section-by-section analysis of proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) that a payment mechanism in which the consumer ``pushes'' funds from his or her account to the lender does not provide the lender leverage over the account in a way that changes the lender's incentives to determine the consumer's ability to repay the loan or exacerbates the harms the consumer experiences if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan.

    Proposed comment 3(c)(1)-2 provided examples of the types of authorizations for lender-initiated transfers that constitute leveraged payment mechanisms. These include checks written by the consumer, authorizations for electronic fund transfers (other than immediate one-

    time transfers as discussed further below), authorizations to create or present remotely created checks, and authorizations for certain transfers by account-holding institutions (including a right of set-

    off). Proposed comment 3(c)(1)-4 explained that a lender does not obtain a leveraged payment mechanism if a consumer authorizes a third party to transfer money from the consumer's account to a lender as long as the transfer is not made pursuant to an incentive or instruction from, or duty to, a lender or service provider. Proposed comment 3(c)(1)-3 contained similar language.

    As noted above, proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) provided that a lender or service provider does not obtain a leveraged payment mechanism by initiating a one-time electronic fund transfer immediately after the consumer authorizes the transfer. This provision is similar to what the Bureau proposed in Sec. 1041.15(b), which exempts lenders from providing the payment notice when initiating a single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request, as that term is defined in proposed Sec. 1041.14(a)(2), and is also similar to what the Bureau proposed in Sec. 1041.14(d), which permits lenders to initiate a single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request even after the prohibition in proposed Sec. 1041.14(b) on initiating further payment transfers has been triggered.

    Accordingly, proposed comment 3(c)(1)-3 clarified that if the loan agreement between the parties does not otherwise provide for the lender or service provider to initiate a transfer without further consumer action, the consumer may authorize a one-time transfer without causing the loan to be a covered loan. Proposed comment 3(c)(1)-3 further clarified that the term ``immediately'' means that the lender initiates the transfer after the authorization with as little delay as possible, which in most circumstances will be within a few minutes. Proposed comment 3(c)(1)-4 took the opposite perspective, noting that a lender or service provider does not initiate a transfer of money from a consumer's account if the consumer authorizes a third party, such as a bank's automatic bill pay service, to initiate a transfer of money from the consumer's account to a lender or service provider as long as the third party does not transfer the money pursuant to an incentive or instruction from, or duty to, a lender or service provider.

    In the proposal, the Bureau noted that it anticipated that scenarios involving authorizations for immediate one-time transfers would only arise in certain discrete situations. For closed-end loans, a lender would be permitted to obtain a leveraged payment mechanism more than 72 hours after the consumer has received the entirety of the loan proceeds without the loan becoming a covered loan. Thus, in the closed-end context, this exception would only be relevant if the consumer was required to make a payment within 72 hours of receiving the loan proceeds--a situation which is unlikely to occur. However, the Bureau acknowledged that the situation may be more likely to occur with open-end credit. According to the proposal, longer-term open-end loans could be covered loans if the lender obtained a leveraged payment mechanism within 72 hours of the consumer receiving the full amount of the funds which the consumer is entitled to receive under the loan. Thus, if a consumer only partially drew down the credit plan, but the consumer was required to make a payment, a one-time electronic fund transfer could trigger coverage without the one-time immediate transfer exception.

    The Bureau received a few comments on Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) of the proposed rule and the related commentary. One commenter contended that the definition of leveraged payment mechanism is overly broad as between different types of push and pull transactions. Another commenter claimed that the Bureau was improperly attributing motive to the practices of different types of lenders that were using the same leveraged payment mechanisms, that its treatment of leveraged payment mechanisms would have more than a minimal effect on lenders that were already engaged in substantial underwriting, and that the proposed rule and commentary were misaligned with respect to transactions that push or pull money from the consumer's account.

    In response to these comments, the Bureau concludes that, in general, its definition is reasonably calibrated to address the core practice at issue here, which is a lender or service provider establishing a right to initiate payment directly from the consumer without any intervening action or further assent from the consumer, subject to certain narrow limitations. The definition of leveraged payment mechanism thus is not overbroad for the purposes served by the rule. As for the final set of comments, the Bureau did not undertake any inquiry or determine any of these issues based on speculation about the motivations of particular lenders; rather, it presumed that lenders that secure leveraged payment mechanisms do so for a mix of reasons. The Bureau also acknowledges at least some tension between the proposed rule and the related commentary in their treatment of push and pull transactions from a consumer's account. On further consideration, however, the Bureau has concluded that with the focus now solely on payment practices, push transactions are no longer germane to the analysis and thus has revised proposed comments 3(c)(1)-1 and 3(c)(1)-4 accordingly.

    In light of these comments received and the responses, the Bureau is finalizing proposed Sec. 1041.3(c)(1) as part of Sec. 1041.3(c), and is revising the definition of leveraged payment mechanism to align more closely with the rule's payment provisions. Specifically, the Bureau is revising the proposed language that would have excluded a one-time immediate transfer from the definition. Under the definition as finalized, the exception applies if the lender initiates a single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request, as defined in Sec. 1041.8(a)(2). As discussed in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. Sec. 1041.8 and 1041.9, transfers meeting the definition of a single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request are excluded from the cap on failed payment attempts and the payment notice requirements. The Bureau has concluded that using the same definition for purposes of

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    excluding certain transfers from the definition of leveraged payment mechanism is important for the consistency of the rule.

    One practical result of this revision is that, whereas the proposed exclusion from the definition of leveraged payment mechanism would have applied only to a one-time electronic fund transfer, the exclusion as finalized permits the lender to initiate an electronic fund transfer or process a signature check without triggering coverage under Sec. 1041.3(b)(3), provided that the lender initiates the transfer or processes the signature check in accordance with the timing and other conditions in Sec. 1041.8(a)(2). The Bureau notes, however, that the definition of single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request applies only to the first time that a lender initiates the electronic fund transfer or processes the signature check pursuant to the exception. It does not apply to the re-presentment or re-submission of a transfer or signature check that is returned for nonsufficient funds. If a transfer or signature check is returned, the lender could still work with the consumer to obtain payment in cash or to set up another transfer meeting the definition of single immediate payment transfer at the consumer's request.

    The Bureau is finalizing the remainder of the commentary to this provision, which is reordered as comments 3(c)-1 to 3(c)-4 of the final rule, with revisions to the language consistent with the revisions made to the definition of leverage payment mechanism in Sec. 1041.3(c).

    3(d) Exclusions for Certain Credit Transactions

    As discussed above, the Bureau decided to narrow how part 1041 applies to covered longer-term loans to focus only on payment practices. Accordingly, the detailed discussion of vehicle security that appeared in proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) in connection with the definition of covered longer-term loan under proposed Sec. 1041.3(b)(2) is no longer germane to the final rule. As noted in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.2(a)(19) of the final rule, the Bureau has now moved certain language from proposed Sec. 1041.3(d) describing vehicle security to Sec. 1041.2(a)(19) of the final rule, since vehicle security is relevant to application to Sec. 1041.6 of the final rule. Thus the remainder of Sec. 1041.3 is being renumbered, and all references to the provisions of proposed Sec. 1041.3(e) have now been finalized as Sec. 1041.3(d), with further revisions and additions as described below.

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e) would have excluded specific types of credit from part 1041, specifically purchase money security interest loans extended solely for the purchase of a good, real estate secured loans, certain credit cards, student loans, non-recourse pawn loans in which the consumer does not possess the pledged collateral, and overdraft services and overdraft lines of credit. The Bureau found as a preliminary matter that notwithstanding the potential term, cost of credit, repayment structure, or security of these loans, they arise in distinct markets that may pose a somewhat different set of concerns for consumers. At the same time, the Bureau was concerned about the risk that these exclusions could create avenues for evasion of the proposed rule. In the Accompanying RFI, the Bureau also solicited information and additional evidence to support further assessment of whether other categories of loans may pose risks to consumers where lenders do not determine the consumer's ability to repay. The Bureau also emphasized that it may determine in a particular supervisory or enforcement matter or in a later rulemaking, in light of evidence available at the time, that the failure to assess ability to repay when making a loan excluded from coverage here may nonetheless be an unfair or abusive act or practice.

    The Bureau did not receive any comments on the brief opening language in Sec. 1041.3(e) of the proposed rule, and is finalizing the language which notes that the exclusions listed in Sec. 1041.3(d) of the final rule apply to certain transactions, with slight modifications for clarity.

    The Bureau did, however, receive some general comments about the topic of exclusions from the scope of coverage of the proposed rule. First, various consumer groups argued that there should be no exclusions or exemptions from coverage under the rule, which would weaken its effectiveness.

    A ``fintech'' company urged the Bureau to develop a ``sandbox'' type of model to allow innovation and to encourage the development of alternative loan models. Another such company offered a more complicated and prescriptive regulatory scheme establishing a safe harbor, lifting income verification requirements for loans with low loss rates and loans with amortizing payment plans, and full relief from cooling-off periods if borrowers repay their loans on time with their own money. One commenter during the SBREFA process argued for a broad exemption from the rule for payday lenders in States that permit such loans pursuant to existing regulatory frameworks governing payday lending. Another sought an exemption for Tribal lenders, asserting that the Bureau lacked statutory authority to treat them as covered by the rule. Many finance companies, and others commenting on their behalf, offered reasons why the Bureau should omit traditional installment loans from coverage under the rule; they also presented different formulations of how this result could be achieved.

    The Bureau does not agree that the exclusions listed in the proposal should be eliminated, for all the reasons set out in the discussion of those specific exclusions below (and notes that a further exclusion and two conditional exemptions have been added to or revised from the proposed rule). As for the notion of a ``sandbox'' approach to financial innovation, the Bureau has developed its own approach to these issues, having created and operated its Project Catalyst for several years now as a means of carrying out the Bureau's statutory objective to ensure that ``markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.'' \435\ The suggestion that a distinct and highly prescriptive regulatory approach should be adopted in preference to the framework actually set out in the proposal is not supported by any data or analysis of this market.

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    \435\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(5). More information about Project Catalyst is available on the Bureau's Web site at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/project-catalyst/ (last visited Sept. 24, 2017).

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    The arguments for an exemption of payday lender in those States where they are permitted to make such loans are directly contrary to all of the data and analysis contained in the extended discussions above in part II and below in Market Concerns--Underwriting. All of the risks and harms that the Bureau has identified from covered loans occur, by definition, in those States that authorize such lending, rather than in the 15 States and the District of Columbia that have effectively banned such lending under their State laws. The arguments raised on behalf of Tribal lenders have also been raised in Tribal consultations that the Bureau has held with federally recognized Indian tribes, as discussed in part III, and rest on what the Bureau believes is a misreading of the statutes and of governing Federal law and precedents governing the scope of Tribal immunity.\436\

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    \436\ See, e.g., CFPB v. Great Plains Lending, 846 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2017), reh'g denied (Apr. 5, 2017) (court of appeals affirmed district court ruling that Tribal Lending Entities must comply with civil investigative demands issued by the CFPB); see also Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians v. New York State Dep't of Fin. Servs., 769 F.3d 105, 107 (2d Cir. 2014); Donovan v. Coeur d'Alene Tribal Farms, 751 F.2d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1985).

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    As for the points raised by finance companies and others about traditional installment loans, they are largely being addressed by various modifications to the proposed rule, including by not imposing underwriting requirements for covered longer-term loans (other than covered longer-term balloon-payment loans), by adopting the exclusions and conditional exemptions, and, as some commenters suggested, by adopting the definition of cost of credit under TILA in place of the definition of total cost of credit in the proposed rule.

    3(d)(1) Certain Purchase Money Security Interest Loans

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(1) would have excluded from coverage under proposed part 1041 loans extended for the sole and express purpose of financing a consumer's initial purchase of a good when the good being purchased secures the loan. Accordingly, loans made solely to finance the purchase of, for example, motor vehicles, televisions, household appliances, or furniture would not be subject to the consumer protections imposed by proposed part 1041 to the extent the loans are secured by the good being purchased. Proposed comment 3(e)(1)-1 explained the test for determining whether a loan is made solely for the purpose of financing a consumer's initial purchase of a good. If the item financed is not a good or if the amount financed is greater than the cost of acquiring the good, the loan is not solely for the purpose of financing the initial purchase of the good. Proposed comment 3(e)(1)-1 further explained that refinances of credit extended for the purchase of a good do not fall within this exclusion and may be subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041.

    Purchase money loans are typically treated differently than non-

    purchase money loans under the law. The FTC's Credit Practices Rule generally prohibits consumer credit in which a lender takes a nonpossessory security interest in household goods but makes an exception for purchase money security interests.\437\ The Federal Bankruptcy Code, the UCC, and some other State laws also apply different standards to purchase money security interests. This differential treatment facilitates the financing of the initial purchase of relatively expensive goods, which many consumers would not be able to afford without a purchase money loan. In the proposal, the Bureau stated that it had not yet determined whether purchase money loans pose similar risks to consumers as the loans covered by proposed part 1041. Accordingly, the Bureau proposed not to cover such loans at this time.

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    \437\ 16 CFR 444.2(a)(4).

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    A number of commenters expressed concern about the proposal's use of a sole purpose test for determining when a loan made to finance the consumer's initial purchase of a good gives rise to a purchase money security interest. Other alternatives were suggested, including a primary purpose test or perhaps the definition used in the UCC adopted in many States. Some commenters expressed concerns about motor vehicle purchases, in particular, noting that where the amount financed includes not simply the vehicle itself, but also the costs of ancillary products such as an extended service contract or a warranty, or other related costs such as taxes, tags, and title, it may be unclear whether the loan would lose its status as a purchase money security interest loan and become a covered loan instead. Others contended that covering the refinancing of credit that was extended for the purchase of a good could seem inconsistent with the terms of the exclusion itself, and could also bring back within the proposed rule's scope of coverage many motor vehicle loans where the total cost of credit would exceed a rate of 36 percent per annum. These commenters again were particularly concerned about motor vehicle loans, which they noted often exceed a 100 percent lien-to-value ratio because additional products, such as add-on products like extended warranties, are often financed along with the price of the vehicle.

    In response to these comments, the Bureau streamlined and added language to proposed comment 3(e)(1)-1 to specify that a loan qualifies for this exclusion even if the amount financed under the loan includes Federal, State, or local taxes or amounts required to be paid under applicable State and Federal licensing and registration requirements. The Bureau recognized that these mandatory and largely unavoidable items should not cause a loan to lose its excluded status. Yet the same considerations do not apply to ancillary products that are being sold along with a vehicle or other household good, but are not themselves the good in which the lender takes a security interest as a condition of the credit. As to the concern about refinances of credit extended for the purchase of a good, and especially the concern that this provision could bring back within the proposed rule's scope of coverage many motor vehicle loans where the total cost of credit would exceed a rate of 36 percent per annum, the Bureau concluded that other changes made elsewhere in the final rule largely mitigate these concerns. In particular, the Bureau notes that the definition of total cost of credit in Sec. 1041.2(a)(18) of the proposed rule has now been replaced with the definition of cost of credit in Sec. 1041.2(a)(6) of the final rule, which aligns this term with Regulation Z. The Bureau also notes that these concerns about refinancing are most applicable to covered longer-term loans, which are no longer subject to underwriting criteria in the final rule (with the exception of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans). And though they are subject to the payment provisions, other changes in the coverage and the scope of the exceptions for certain payment transfers mitigate the effects for credit unions, in particular, that were the source of many of the comments on this issue.

    For these reasons, the Bureau is finalizing the regulation text as proposed, and the revised commentary as explained above as Sec. 1041.3(d)(1) in the final rule.

    3(d)(2) Real Estate Secured Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(2) would have excluded from coverage under proposed part 1041 loans that are secured by real property, or by personal property used as a dwelling, and in which the lender records or perfects the security interest. The Bureau stated that even without this exclusion, very few real estate secured loans would meet the coverage criteria set forth in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b). Nonetheless, the Bureau preliminarily found that a categorical exclusion would be appropriate. For the most part, these loans are already subject to Federal consumer protection laws, including, for most closed-end loans, ability-to-repay requirements under Regulation Z Sec. 1026.43. The proposed requirement that the security interest in the real estate be recorded or perfected also strongly discourages attempts to use this exclusion for sham or evasive purposes. Recording or perfecting a security interest in real estate is not a cursory exercise for a lender--recording fees are often charged and documentation is required. As proposed comment 3(e)(2)-1 explained, if the lender does not record or otherwise perfect the security interest in the property during the term of the loan, the loan does not fall under this exclusion and may be subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041. The Bureau did not receive any comments on this portion of the proposed rule, and is

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    finalizing this exclusion and the commentary as proposed, with formatting changes only.

    3(d)(3) Credit Cards

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(3) would have excluded from coverage under proposed part 1041 credit card accounts meeting the definition of credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan in Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(15)(ii), rather than products meeting the more general definition of credit card accounts under Regulation Z Sec. 1026.2(a)(15). By focusing on the narrower category, the exclusion would apply only to credit card accounts that are subject to the Credit CARD Act of 2009,\438\ which provides various heightened safeguards for consumers. These protections include a limitation that card issuers cannot open a credit card account or increase a credit line on a card account unless the card issuer first considers the consumer's ability to repay the required payments under the terms of the account, as well as other protections such as limitations on fees during the first year after account opening, late fee restrictions, and a requirement that card issuers give consumers a reasonable amount of time to pay their bill.\439\

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    \438\ Public Law 111-24, 123 Stat. 1734 (2009).

    \439\ 15 U.S.C. 1665e; see also 12 CFR 1026.51(a); supplement I to 12 CFR part 1026.

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    The Bureau preliminarily found that potential consumer harms related to credit card accounts are more appropriately addressed by the CARD Act, its implementing regulations, and other applicable law. At the same time, if the Bureau were to craft a broad exclusion for all credit cards as generally defined under Regulation Z, the Bureau would be concerned that a lender seeking to evade the requirements of the rule might seek to structure a product in a way that is designed to take advantage of this exclusion. The Bureau therefore proposed a narrower definition, focusing only on those credit card accounts that are subject to the full range of protections under the CARD Act and its implementing regulations. Among other requirements, the regulations imposing the CARD Act prescribe a different ability-to-repay standard that lenders must follow, and the Bureau found as a preliminary matter that the combined consumer protections governing credit card accounts subject to the CARD Act are sufficient for that type of credit.

    One commenter stated that all credit cards should be excluded from coverage under the rule, not just those subject to the CARD Act. Another industry commenter found it noteworthy that credit cards are not covered under the rule even though they can result in a cycle of debt. Consumer groups argued that this exclusion should be narrowed to lower-cost mainstream credit cards in harmony with the provisions of the Military Lending Act and implementing regulations. Other narrowing categories were also suggested in that comment.

    For all the reasons stated in the proposal, the Bureau does not find it sensible to expand coverage in this exclusion beyond those credit cards that are subject to the various heightened safeguards and protections for consumers in the CARD Act. At the same time, the reasons for drawing the boundaries of this exclusion around that particular universe of credit cards also militate against narrowing the scope of the exclusion further. Accordingly, the Bureau is finalizing this exclusion as proposed, with formatting changes only. The Bureau notes that ``hybrid prepaid-credit card'' products, which are treated as open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plans under the final prepaid accounts rule, will be excluded from the scope of this final rule under Sec. 1041.3(d)(3).\440\

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    \440\ 81 FR 83934 (Nov. 22, 2016).

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    3(d)(4) Student Loans

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(4) would have excluded from coverage under proposed part 1041 loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a Federal student loan program, and private education loans. The Bureau stated that even without this exclusion, very few student loans would meet the coverage criteria set forth in proposed Sec. 1041.3(b). Nonetheless, the Bureau preliminarily determined that a categorical exclusion is appropriate. Federal student loans are provided to students or parents meeting eligibility criteria established by Federal law and regulations, such that the protections afforded by this proposed rule would be unnecessary. Private student loans are sometimes made to students based on their future potential ability to repay (as distinguished from their current ability), but they are typically co-

    signed by a party with financial capacity. These loans raise discrete issues that may warrant further attention in the future, but the Bureau found as a preliminary matter that they were not appropriately considered along with the types of loans at issue in this rulemaking. The Bureau stated in the proposal that it would continue to monitor the student loan servicing market for trends and developments; for unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices; and to evaluate possible policy responses, including potential rulemaking.

    Consumer groups contended that student loans should not be excluded from coverage under the rule. They noted that the effect of deleting this exclusion would likely be limited to private education loans, since the total cost of credit for Federal student loans in the proposed rule would likely not exceed a rate of 36 percent per annum. The Bureau continues to judge that student loans are specialized in nature, are subject to certain other regulatory constraints more specifically contoured to the loan product, and are generally not appropriately considered among the types of loans at issue here. The Bureau did not receive any other comments on this portion of the proposed rule, and is finalizing this exclusion as proposed, with formatting changes only.

    3(d)(5) Non-Recourse Pawn Loans

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(5) generally would have excluded from coverage, under proposed part 1041, loans secured by pawned property in which the lender has sole physical possession and use of the pawned property for the entire term of loan, and for which the lender's sole recourse if the consumer does not redeem the pawned property is the retention and disposal of the property. Proposed comment 3(e)(5)-1 explained that if any consumer, including a co-signor or guarantor, is personally liable for the difference between the outstanding loan balance and the value of the pawned property, then the loan does not fall under this exclusion and may be subject to the requirements of proposed part 1041.

    The Bureau preliminarily found that bona fide, non-recourse pawn loans generally pose somewhat different risks to consumers than loans covered under proposed part 1041. As described in part II, non-recourse pawn loans involve the consumer physically relinquishing control of the item that secures the loan during the term of the loan. The Bureau stated that consumers may be more likely to understand and appreciate the risks associated with physically turning over an item to the lender when they are required to do so at consummation. Moreover, in most situations, the loss of a non-recourse pawned item over which the lender has sole physical possession during the term of the loan is less likely to affect the rest of the consumer's finances than is either a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security. For instance, a pawned item of this nature may be valuable to the consumer, but the consumer most likely does not rely on the pawned item for

    Page 54546

    transportation to work or to pay basic living expenses or major financial obligations. Otherwise, the consumer likely would not have pawned the item under those terms. Finally, because the loans are non-

    recourse, in the event that a consumer is unable to repay the loan, the lender must accept the pawned item as fully satisfying the debt, without further collection activity on any remaining debt obligations. In all of these ways, the Bureau stated in the proposal that pawn transactions appear to differ significantly from the secured loans that would be covered under proposed part 1041.

    One commenter claimed that the same reasons for excluding non-

    recourse pawn loans applies to vehicle title loans, and that vehicle title loans may even be preferred by consumers as the consumer retains the use of the vehicle and they can be less costly. Another similarly argued that the Bureau ignored the principle of a level playing field among different financial products by excluding high-cost alternatives like pawn loans, which can be even more costly at times than payday loans. Consumer groups suggested that the exclusion should be narrowed only to pawn loans where the loan does not exceed the fair market value of the good.

    Another commenter representing pawnbrokers argued that the exclusion for pawn loans is justified because pawn transactions function as marketed, they are less likely than other loan products to affect the rest of the consumer's finances, consumers do not experience very high default rates or aggressive collection efforts, certain other harms identified in the proposal do not occur in the pawn market, State and local government regulation is working well, consumers are given clear disclosures on their pawn ticket, and loan terms are longer than the typical 14-day payday loan.

    The Bureau does not find that these comments justify any modifications to this provision, and therefore finalizes the exclusion and the commentary as proposed, with formatting changes only. The first two comments do not provide any tangible support for eliminating the rationale for the exclusion of non-recourse pawn loans, and issues involving vehicle title loans are addressed elsewhere, as in Market Concerns--Underwriting, which describes the special risks and harms to consumers of repossession of their vehicle, which would potentially cause them to lose their basic transportation to work and to manage their everyday affairs. The suggestion that certain pawn loans should be covered loans depending on the relationship between the amount of the loan and the fair market value of the good would introduce needless complexity into the rule without discernible benefits. The Bureau notes that non-recourse pawn loans had previously been referenced in the definition of non-covered bridge loan in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(13), which has now been omitted from the final rule. To the extent that provision would have restricted the making of such loans in connection with the underwriting criteria for covered longer-term loans, those provisions are not being included in the final rule. To the extent that provision would have restricted the making of such loans in connection with the requirements in the rule for making covered short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loans, the Bureau concludes that various other changes made in Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.6 address the subject of those restrictions in ways that obviate the need for defining the term non-covered bridge loan. However, note that any type of loan, including pawn loans, if used to bridge between multiple covered short-

    term loans or covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, are factors which could indicate that a lender's ability-to-repay determinations are unreasonable. See comment 5(b)-2.

    3(d)(6) Overdraft Services and Lines of Credit

    Proposed Sec. 1041.3(e)(6) would have excluded from coverage under proposed part 1041 overdraft services on deposit accounts as defined in 12 CFR 1005.17(a), as well as payments of overdrafts pursuant to a line of credit subject to Regulation Z, 12 CFR part 1026. Proposed comment 3(e)(6)-1 noted that institutions could rely on the commentary to 12 CFR 1005.17(a) in determining whether credit is an overdraft service or an overdraft line of credit that is excluded from the requirements of part 1041. Overdraft services generally operate on a consumer's deposit account as a negative balance, where the consumer's bank processes and pays certain payment transactions for which the consumer lacks sufficient funds in the account and imposes a fee for the service as an alternative to either refusing to authorize the payment (in the case of most debit and ATM transactions and ACH payments initiated from the consumer's account) or rejecting the payment and charging a non-

    sufficient funds fee (in the case of other ACH payments as well as paper checks). Overdraft services have been treated separately from the provisions of Regulation Z in certain circumstances, and are subject to specific rules under EFTA and the Truth in Savings Act (TISA) and their respective implementing regulations.\441\ In contrast, overdraft lines of credit are separate open-end lines of credit under Regulation Z that have been linked to a consumer's deposit account to provide automatic credit draws to cover the processing of payments for which the funds in the deposit account are insufficient.

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    \441\ 74 FR 59033 (Nov. 17, 2009) (EFTA); 70 FR 29582 (May 24, 2005) (TISA).

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    As discussed above in part II, the Bureau is engaged in research and other activity in anticipation of a separate rulemaking on overdraft products and practices.\442\ Given that overdraft services and overdraft lines of credit involve complex overlays with rules about payment processing, deposit accounts, set-off rights, and other forms of depository account access, the Bureau preliminarily found that any discussion of whether additional regulatory protections are warranted for those two products should be reserved for that rulemaking. Accordingly, the Bureau proposed excluding both types of overdraft products from the scope of this rule, using definitional language from Regulation E to distinguish both overdraft services and overdraft lines of credit from other types of depository credit products.

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    \442\ CFPB Study of Overdraft Programs White Paper; Checking Account Overdraft.

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    One industry commenter argued that the Bureau ignored the principle of a level playing field among different financial products by excluding high-cost alternatives like overdraft, which can be even more costly at times than payday loans. Consumer groups argued that the Bureau should eliminate this exclusion or limit it in various ways. The Bureau maintains the analysis presented in the proposed rule to conclude that overdraft services and lines of credit are unique products with a distinct regulatory history and treatment, which should be excluded from this rule and addressed on their own as a matter of supervision, enforcement, and regulation. The Bureau also did not find persuasive the suggestion that overdraft services and lines of credit should be covered in some partial manner, which would introduce needless complexity into the rule without discernible benefits. Having received no other comments on this portion of the proposed rule, the Bureau is finalizing this exclusion and the commentary as proposed, with formatting changes only.

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    3(d)(7) Wage Advance Programs

    Based on prior discussions with various stakeholders, the Bureau solicited and received comments in the proposal in connection with the definition of lender under proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(11) about some newly formed companies that are seeking to develop programs that provide innovative access to consumers' wages in ways that do not seem to pose the kinds of risks and harms presented by covered loans. Certain of these companies, but by no means all of them, are part of the ``fintech'' wave. Some are developing new products as an outgrowth of businesses focusing mainly on payroll processing, for example, whereas others are not associated with consumers' employers but rather are focused primarily on devising new means of advising consumers about how to improve their approach to cash management. The Bureau has consistently expressed interest in encouraging more experimentation in this space.

    In particular, a number of these innovative financial products are seeking to assist consumers in finding ways to draw on the accrued cash value of wages they have earned but not yet been paid. Some of these products are doing so without imposing any fees or finance charges, other than a charge for participating in the program that is designed to cover processing costs. Others are developing different models that may involve fees or advances on wages not yet earned.

    The Bureau notes that some efforts to give consumers access to accrued wages may not be credit at all. For instance, when an employer allows an employee to draw accrued wages ahead of a scheduled payday and then later reduces the employee's paycheck by the amount drawn, there is a quite plausible argument that the transaction does not involve ``credit'' because the employee may not be incurring a debt at all. This is especially likely where the employer does not reserve any recourse upon the payment made to the employee other than the corresponding reduction in the employee's paycheck.

    Other initiatives are structured in more complicated ways that are more likely to constitute ``credit'' under the definition set forth in Sec. 1041.2(a)(11) and Regulation Z. For example, if an employer cannot simply reduce the amount of an employee's paycheck because payroll processing has already begun, there may be a need for a mechanism for the consumer to repay the funds after they are deposited in the consumer's account.

    The Bureau has decided in new Sec. 1041.3(d)(7) to exclude such wage advance programs--to the extent they constitute credit--from coverage under the rule if they meet certain additional conditions. The Bureau notes that the payment of accrued wages on a periodic basis, such as bi-weekly or monthly, appears to be largely driven by efficiency concerns with payroll processing and employers' cash management. In addition, the Bureau believes that the kinds of risks and harms that the Bureau has identified with making covered loans, which are often unaffordable as a result of the identified unfair and abusive practice, may not be present where these types of innovative financial products are subject to appropriate safeguards. Accordingly, where advances of wages constitute credit, the Bureau is adopting Sec. 1041.3(d)(7) to exclude them from part 1041 if the advances are made by an employer, as defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 203(d), or by the employer's business partner, to the employer's employees, provided that the following conditions apply:

    The employee is not required to pay any charges or fees in connection with such an advance from the employer or the employer's business partner, other than a charge for participating in the program; and

    The entity advancing the funds warrants that it has no legal or contractual claim or remedy against the employee based on the employee's failure to repay in the event the amount advanced is not repaid in full; will not engage in any debt collection activities if the advance is not deducted directly from wages or otherwise repaid on the scheduled date; will not place the amount advanced as a debt with or sell the debt to a third party; and will not report the debt to a consumer reporting agency concerning the amount advanced.

    The Bureau has considered the comments as well as its own analysis of this evolving marketplace and has concluded that new and innovative financial products that meet these conditions will tend not to produce the kinds of risks and harms that the Bureau's final rule is seeking to address with respect to covered loans. At the same time, nothing prevents the Bureau from reconsidering these assumptions in a future rulemaking if there is evidence that such products are harming consumers.

    The Bureau has also adopted new commentary. Comment 3(d)(7)-1 notes that wage advance programs must be offered by the employee's employer or the employer's business partner, and examples are provided of such business partners, which could include companies that are involved in providing payroll processing, accounting services, or benefits programs to the employer. Comment 3(d)(7)(i)-1 specifies that the advance must be made only against accrued wages and must not exceed the amount of the employee's accrued wages, and provides further definition around the meaning of accrued wages. Comment 3(d)(7)(ii)(B)-1 clarifies that though the entity advancing the funds is required to warrant that it has no legal or contractual claim or remedy against the consumer based on the consumer's failure to repay in the event the amount advanced is not repaid in full, this provision does not prevent the entity from obtaining a one-time authorization to seek repayment from the consumer's transaction account.

    For these reasons, the Bureau is adopting the exclusion for wage advance programs as described in Sec. 1041.3(d)(7) of the final rule and the related commentary.

    3(d)(8) No-Cost Advances

    As discussed above in connection with Sec. 1041.3(d)(7), the Bureau noted in the proposal, in connection with its discussion of the definition of lender in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(11), that some newly formed companies are providing products or services that allow consumers to draw on wages they have earned but not yet been paid. Some of these companies are providing advances of funds and are doing so without charging any fees or finance charges, for instance by relying on voluntary tips. The proposal noted that others were seeking repayment and compensation through electronic transfers from the consumer's account. The Bureau sought comment on whether to exclude such entities and similar products from coverage under the rule.

    The Bureau received limited comments on this issue, perhaps reflecting that it represents a fairly new business model in the marketplace, with some championing the potential benefits for consumers and others maintaining that no exclusions--or at least no additional exclusions--should be created to the rule as it was proposed. Some comments described in more detail how the evolution of these products was unfolding, how they operate, and how they may affect the marketplace and consumers. The Bureau has also had discussions with stakeholders in connection with its other functions, such as market monitoring, supervision, and general outreach, that have informed its views and understanding of these new products and methods of providing access to funds for more consumers. As discussed above in connection with

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    Sec. 1041.3(d)(7), the Bureau is aware that some of these products provide access to the consumer's own funds in the form of earned wages already accrued but not yet paid out because of administrative and payroll processes historically developed by employers, whereas other products rely on estimates of wages likely to be accrued, or accrued on average, and may make advances against expected wages that are not already earned and accrued.

    The Bureau has carefully considered the comments it has received on these issues, as well as other information about the market that it has gleaned from the course of its regular activities. The Bureau has addressed certain wage advance programs offered by employers or their business partners in Sec. 1041.3(d)(7), as discussed above. In addition, after further weighing the potential benefits to consumers of this relatively new approach, the Bureau has decided to create a specific exclusion in Sec. 1041.3(d)(8) of the final rule to apply to no-cost advances, regardless of whether they are offered by an employer or its business partner. The exclusion contains similar conditions to Sec. 1041.3(d)(7), except that it applies to advances of funds where the consumer is not required to pay any charge or fee (even a fee for participating in the program), and it is not limited to the accrued cash value of the employee's wages. Like Sec. 1041.3(d)(7), the exclusion is further limited to situations in which the entity advancing the funds warrants to the consumer as part of the contract between the parties (i) that it has no legal or contractual claim or remedy against the consumer based on the consumer's failure to repay in the event the amount advanced is not repaid in full; and (ii) that with respect to the amount advanced to the consumer, the entity advancing the funds will not engage in any debt collection activities, place the debt with or sell the debt to a third party, or report the debt to a consumer reporting agency if the advance is not repaid on the scheduled date.

    The exclusion in Sec. 1041.3(d)(8) is thus designed to apply to programs relying solely on a ``tips'' model or otherwise providing emergency assistance at no cost to consumers. The Bureau estimates, based on its experience with the marketplace for different types of small-dollar loans, that products meeting the conditions of Sec. 1041.3(d)(8) are likely to benefit consumers and unlikely to lead to the risks and harms described below in Market Concerns--Underwriting. Unlike the proposal, the Bureau has decided not to confine such no-fee advances solely to the employer-employee context, as the very specific features of their product structure makes an exclusion from the rule for them likely to be beneficial for consumers across the spectrum. At the same time, nothing prevents the Bureau from reconsidering these assumptions in a future rulemaking if there is evidence that such products are harming consumers.

    New comment 3(d)(8)-1 further provides that though an entity advancing the funds is required to warrant that it has no legal or contractual claim or remedy against the consumer based on the consumer's failure to repay in the event the amount advanced is not repaid in full, this provision does not prevent the entity from obtaining a one-time authorization to seek repayment from the consumer's transaction account.

    For these reasons, the Bureau is adopting the exclusion for no-cost advances as described in Sec. 1041.3(d)(8) of the final rule and the related commentary.

    3(e) Conditional Exemption for Alternative Loans

    In Sec. 1041.11 of the proposed rule, the Bureau set forth a conditional exemption for loans with a term of between 46 days and 180 days, if they satisfied a set of conditions that generally followed those established by the NCUA under the Payday Alternative Loan (PAL) Program as described above in part II. The proposal did not, however, contain a comparable exemption for PAL loans with durations between 30 and 45 days, with 30 days being the minimum duration permitted for a PAL loan. Loans that met the conditions of the proposed conditional exemption would have been exempted from the proposed underwriting criteria applicable to covered longer-term loans, but still would have been subject to the requirements on payment practices and the notice requirements.

    The Bureau received many general comments on the proposed exemption for PAL loans offered by credit unions and for comparable loan products if offered by other lenders. Some commenters argued that credit unions, as a class of entity, should be entirely exempted from all coverage under the rule. Others asked for more tailored exemptions for certain credit unions, such as for those with assets totaling less than $10 billion. Still others requested that credit unions be relieved of specific obligations under the rule, such as from compliance and record retention provisions (because their prudential regulators already address those matters); or from payment regulations for internal collections that do not incur fees; or from underwriting requirements for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that provide beneficial credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations. By contrast, other commenters did not think the Bureau could or should create any special provisions for credit unions in particular. But some consumer and legal aid groups were supportive of the PAL program, which they viewed as beneficial to consumers and not easily subject to manipulation.

    Some asserted that the PAL program was too constrained to support any broad provision of such loans, which were unlikely to yield a reasonable rate of return and thus not likely to generate a substantial volume of loans or to be sustainable for other lenders that are not depository institutions. Others argued that the proposed rule contained provisions that would go beyond the terms of the PAL program and increase complexity, and these additional provisions should be scaled back to mirror the PAL program more closely. Some commenters contended that the PAL program itself imposed a usury limit, which would be improper if adopted by the Bureau.

    As discussed earlier, the Bureau has decided not to finalize the specific underwriting criteria with respect to covered longer-term loans (other than covered longer-term balloon-payment loans) at this time. However, the Bureau has decided, for the reasons explained below, to create a conditional exemption to the rule that applies to any alternative loan, which is a term that is defined more specifically below. In brief, an alternative loan is a covered loan that meets certain conditions and requirements that are generally consistent with the provisions of the PAL program as authorized and administered by the NCUA, including any such loan made by a Federal credit union that is in compliance with that program. The conditions and requirements of the exemption are modified in certain respects relative to the proposal to reflect that the conditional exemption now also encompasses loans of less than 45 days in duration to create a more comprehensive lending framework, unlike the coverage initially described in the proposed rule. In creating this exception, the Bureau agrees with the commenters that concluded, after observing the PAL program over time, that program is generally beneficial to consumers and not easily subject to manipulation in ways that would create risks and harms to consumers.

    Page 54549

    At the same time, the Bureau recognizes that one of the objectives set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act is for Federal consumer financial law to be enforced consistently without regard to the status of a person as a depository institution.\443\ Consistent with that objective, the Bureau has set forth the elements of alternative loans in general form, so that lenders other than Federal credit unions--including both banks and other types of financial institutions--can offer comparable loans in accordance with essentially the same conditions and requirements. By doing so, the Bureau is making it possible for more lenders to offer this product, which will offer the opportunity to test the prediction made by some commenters that these loans would not scale if offered by lenders that are not depository institutions--a point on which the Bureau is not yet convinced either way.

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    \443\ See 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(4) (``Federal consumer financial law is enforced consistently, without regard to the status of a person as a depository institution, in order to promote fair competition.'').

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    The conditional exemption for alternative loans contained in Sec. 1041.3(e) of the final rule is adopted pursuant to the Bureau's exemption authority in section 1022(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act to ``conditionally or unconditionally exempt any class of covered persons, service providers, or consumer financial products or services, from any . . . rule issued under this title.'' \444\ In this respect, Congress gave the Bureau broad latitude, simply stating that it should do so ``as it deems necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes and objectives of this title.'' \445\ The statutory language thus indicates that the Bureau should evaluate the case for creating such an exemption in light of its general purposes and objectives as Congress articulated them in section 1021 of the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, when the Bureau exercises its exemption authority under section 1022(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act, it is further required to take into consideration, as appropriate, three additional statutory factors: (i) The total assets of the class of covered persons; (ii) the volume of transactions involving consumer financial products or services in which the class of covered persons engages; and (iii) existing provisions of law which are applicable to the consumer financial product or service and the extent to which such provisions provide consumers with adequate protections.\446\

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    \444\ 12 U.S.C. 5512 (b)(3)(A).

    \445\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(A).

    \446\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(B)(i)-(iii).

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    Here, the Bureau perceives tangible benefit for consumers and for lenders by preserving the framework of the PAL program, which as discussed in part II has had some success in generating approximately $134.7 million in originations in 2016--up 9.7 percent from the 2015 levels--with relatively low costs of credit and relatively low levels of charge-offs for this particular market. In particular, the Bureau agrees with those commenters that noted the distinct elements of the PAL program, including the specified product features, are not configured to give rise to the kinds of risks and harms that are more evident with covered short-term loans or covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans. In short, the PAL product thus far seems to be beneficial for consumers, and a conditional exemption to make such loans more broadly available to the public appears consistent with the Bureau's purpose ``of ensuring that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.'' \447\ Likewise, it seems consistent also with the Bureau's objective of ensuring that ``markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation,'' and the competition that alternative loans could provide to other types of covered loans may be helpful in protecting consumers ``from unfair . . . or abusive acts and practices.'' \448\

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    \447\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(a).

    \448\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(5) and (b)(2).

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    Turning to the statutory factors set out in section 1022(b)(3), the assets of the expected class of lenders is likely to remain relatively small in light of the thousands of smaller credit unions, as also is the volume of transactions, which many commenters did not seem to expect would scale into much larger loan programs, though the Bureau is not yet convinced on this point either way. In addition, the PAL program itself is regulated and overseen by NCUA with respect to the credit unions who offer it, which means that ``existing provisions of law . . . are applicable to it'' and it is reasonable at this time to judge that ``such provisions provide consumers with adequate protection'' in using this loan product, as Congress indicated was germane to determining the justifications for an exemption.\449\ Moreover, under the general terms of Sec. 1041.3(e), which allows all lenders to make alternative loans regardless of whether they are credit unions, the Bureau and other regulators, including State regulators, stand well-positioned to monitor the development of this loan product over time, and to make adjustments if the current experience of these loans as generally beneficial for consumers were perceived to be changing in ways that created greater consumer risks and harms.

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    \449\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(B)(iii).

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    The Bureau decided to create this conditional exemption in order to recognize that the NCUA is currently operating and supervising this established loan program for credit unions and to avoid duplicative overlap of requirements that could foster confusion and create undue burdens for certain lenders, in light of the Bureau's conclusion that loans made on terms that are generally consistent with the PAL program do not pose the same kinds of risks and harms for consumers as the types of covered loans addressed by this rule.\450\ It also judges this approach to be superior to the broader scope of exemptions urged by various commenters, such as a complete exemption from the rule for all loans of all types made by credit unions (rather than just PAL loans), or even a conditional exemption from certain portions of the rule for all loans of all types made by credit unions. As for the comment that these loans impose a usury cap, the Bureau has explained elsewhere that an actual usury cap would flatly prohibit certain loans from being made based directly on the interest rate being charged, whereas the exemption provided here would merely allow such loans to avoid triggering certain conditions of making such loans--most notably, the requirement that the lender reasonably assess the borrower's ability to repay the loan according to its terms but also the provisions concerning payment practices.

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    \450\ See 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(B) (in deciding whether to issue an exemption, ``the Bureau shall, as appropriate, take into consideration . . . existing provisions of law which are applicable to the consumer financial product or service and the extent to which such provisions provide consumers with adequate protection'').

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    For all of these reasons, the Bureau is finalizing this provision and the related commentary with several modifications. First, in response to comments suggesting that various conditions for alternative loans as stated in the proposed rule would render this loan product too burdensome and complex, the Bureau has eliminated certain conditions for such loans in the final rule. In particular, among the conditions added in the proposal that now are dropped are: required monthly payments; rules on charging fees; required checking of affiliate records; certain additional requirements, such as prohibitions on prepayment penalties

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    and sweeping of accounts in certain circumstances, as well as required information furnishing. Second, certain changes have been made to take account of the fact that proposed Sec. 1041.11 had applied only to covered longer-term loans, whereas Sec. 1041.3(e) of the final rule applies to covered loans more generally. The language of each prong of Sec. 1041.3(e)(1) through (4) of the final rule is set out below, and immediately thereafter any changes made from the proposed language to the text of the final rule are specified and explained. Again, as a prefatory matter, an alternative loan is a covered loan that meets all four of these sets of conditions and requirements.

    3(e)(1) Loan Term Conditions

    Loan term conditions. An alternative loan must satisfy the following conditions:

    cir The loan is not structured as open-end credit, as defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(16);

    cir The loan has a term of not less than one month and not more than six months;

    cir The principal of the loan is not less than $200 and not more than $1,000;

    cir The loan is repayable in two or more payments, all of which payments are substantially equal in amount and fall due in substantially equal intervals, and the loan amortizes completely during the term of the loan; and

    cir The loan carries a cost of credit (excluding any application fees) of not more than the interest rate permissible for Federal credit unions to charge under regulations issued by the National Credit Union Administration at 12 CFR 701.21(c)(7)(iii), and any application fees charged to the consumer reflect the actual costs associated with processing the application and do not exceed the application fees permissible for Federal credit unions to charge under regulations issued by the National Credit Union Administration at 12 CFR 701.21(c)(7)(iii).

    The language of the final rule originated in Sec. 1041.11(a) of the proposed rule. The name of the exemption has been revised from a conditional exemption for certain covered longer-term loans up to six months in duration to a conditional exemption for alternative loans. The term of the loan is modified from ``not more than six months'' to ``not less than one month and no more than six months,'' again to reflect the change made in this exemption to encompass the broader set of all covered loans, rather than just covered longer-term loans. The other conditions, including the $200 floor and the $1,000 cap, are maintained because they are consistent with the requirements of the PAL program. The prior condition that the loan be repayable in two or more payments ``due no less frequently than monthly'' is now changed to omit the quoted language because the term of these loans may now be shorter than was the case in the proposal. The amortization provision is broken out and simplified to provide more flexibility around the payment schedule and allocation, which again reflects the fact that many of these loans may now be covered short-term loans. Finally, the prior language around total cost of credit is now replaced with cost of credit, which is consistent with TILA and Regulation Z and is responsive to suggestions made by several commenters; the permissible interest rate on such products is that set by the NCUA for the PAL program; any application fees charged to the consumer must reflect the actual associated costs and comply with the provisions of any NCUA regulations; and the lender does not impose any charges other than the rate and application fees permitted by the NCUA for the PAL program.

    3(e)(2) Borrowing History Condition

    Section 1041.3(e)(2) provides that prior to making an alternative loan under Sec. 1041.3(e), the lender must determine from its records that the loan would not result in the consumer being indebted on more than three outstanding loans made under this section from the lender within a period of 180 days. Section 1041.3(e)(2) also provides that the lender must also make no more than one alternative loan under Sec. 1041.3(e) at a time to a consumer.

    Aside from conforming language changes, the only substantive revision here is to excise references to affiliates of the lenders, consistent with the NCUA's practice in administering the PAL program.

    3(e)(3) Income Documentation Condition

    Section 1041.3(e)(3) provides that in making an alternative loan under Sec. 1041.3(e), the lender must maintain and comply with policies and procedures for documenting proof of recurring income.

    This prong contains minor conforming language changes only.

    3(e)(4) Safe Harbor

    Section 1041.3(e)(4) provides that loans made by Federal credit unions in compliance with the conditions set forth by the National Credit Union Administration at 12 CFR 701.21(c)(7)(iii) for a Payday Alternative Loan are deemed to be in compliance with the requirements and conditions of Sec. 1041.3(e)(1), (2), and (3).

    This prong contains entirely new language, replacing what had been ``additional requirements'' in Sec. 1041.11(e) of the proposed rule. Those additional requirements tailored by the NCUA for credit unions and included in the original proposal would be cumbersome in various respects for all lenders to adopt, including provisions on additional information furnishing, restrictions on sweeps and set-offs as means of a depository institution collecting on the loan, and prepayment penalties. The safe harbor provided for Federal credit unions in compliance with NCUA's requirements for the PAL program, however, reflects the fact that to qualify for the safe harbor, a credit union would be obligated to comply with all of the additional requirements of the PAL program.

    Having considered the comments received, the Bureau concludes that it is appropriate to finalize Sec. 1041.3(e) for all the reasons discussed above. The Bureau also is finalizing proposed comment 3(d)(8)-1 as comment 3(e)-1 of the final rule, which notes that this provision does not confer on the lenders of such loans any exemption from the requirements of other applicable laws, including State laws. This comment also clarifies that all lenders, including Federal credit unions and persons that are not Federal credit unions, are permitted to make loans under the specific terms in Sec. 1041.3(e), provided that such loans are permissible under other applicable laws, including State laws. The remainder of the commentary is being carried forward from the proposed rule with revisions, all made to align them with the modified language in Sec. 1041.3(e) of the final rule. The proposed comments previously designated as 11(a)-1 to (11)(e)(1)(ii)-2 are now renumbered as comments 3(e)(1)-1 to 3(e)(3)-1 in the final rule.

    3(f) Conditional Exemption for Accommodation Loans

    In the proposal, in connection with the discussion of the proposed definition of lender in Sec. 1041.2(a)(11), the Bureau noted that some stakeholders had suggested narrowing the definition of lender to avoid covering lenders that are primarily focused on other types of lending or other types of financial services, but on occasion make covered loans as a means of accommodating their existing customers. The stakeholders posited that such loans would be likely to operate differently from loans made as a primary line of business, for instance because the lenders who make them have information about consumers' financial situations from their primary lines of business and because their incentives in making the loans is to preserve their

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    customer relationships, and thus may not pose the same risks and harms as other types of covered loans. The Bureau solicited comments on this suggestion.

    The Bureau had also proposed a more detailed provision, in proposed Sec. 1041.12, in order to provide a conditional exemption for certain covered longer-term loans that would be made through accommodation lending programs and would be underwritten to achieve an annual portfolio default rate of not more than five percent. The proposal would have allowed a lender to make such loans without meeting the specific underwriting criteria contained in the proposed rule, though proposed Sec. 1041.12 laid out its own detailed provisions applicable to the making of such loans. Notably, the Bureau found that the feedback it received on this provision overlapped considerably with the comments submitted in response to the question the Bureau had asked with respect to the definition of lender about providing an exception based on de minimis lending.

    Many commenters expressed their views favoring a de minimis exemption. Several of them urged that the Bureau should set parameters for the exemption based both on loan volume and the percentage of revenue derived from such loans. More specific suggestions ranged from caps of 100 to several thousand loans per year; one commenter suggested 2,000 loans per year that yield no more than five percent of revenue; others urged a cap of 2,500 loans per year that yield no more than 10 percent of revenue.

    The Bureau also received a number of comments on proposed Sec. 1041.12 and proposed comments 12(a)-1 to (12)(f)(1)(ii)-2. Banking organizations argued that the Bureau should exempt types of institutions rather than types of loans, and that because community banks are responsible providers of small loans, they should be conditionally exempted from coverage.

    Many commenters were also critical of the provisions of proposed Sec. 1041.12, which they viewed as so cumbersome as to discourage many institutions from engaging in this type of lending. These comments focused particularly on the back-end requirements and calculations included in the proposal. Some commenters noted the guidance already in place from other banking regulators that had suppressed such lending at the banks, and predicted that the proposal would exacerbate those difficulties. State bank regulators, in particular, advocated in favor of a de minimis threshold to preserve such lending by smaller community banks as beneficial to consumers, especially in rural areas and as a way to provide alternatives if the effect of the rule would be to cause consolidation in the small-dollar lending market. Consumer groups generally opposed exemptions to the rule but acknowledged that a properly structured de minimis provision would be unlikely to create much if any harm to consumers.

    As stated earlier, the Bureau has decided not to finalize the ability-to-repay requirements with respect to covered longer-term loans (other than covered longer-term balloon-payment loans) at this time. However, as a result of reviewing and analyzing the public input on the issue of accommodation lending more generally, the Bureau has determined to create a conditional exemption that is applicable to accommodation loans that have been traditionally made primarily by community banks and credit unions. At the same time, in line with the Dodd-Frank Act's goal of enforcing Federal consumer financial law without regard to a financial company's status as a depository institution,\451\ the Bureau has set forth the elements of accommodation loans in general form such that any lender whose covered loan originations fall below the thresholds set in final Sec. 1041.3(f) can qualify for the conditional exemption. In part, the Bureau is reaching this conclusion based on its review of the comments received, which indicated that lenders would find the approach taken in proposed Sec. 1041.12 to be cumbersome or even unworkable for lenders. Whether or not this was objectively demonstrable for most lenders, it was clear that the proposed approach would have been taken as a discouraging factor for those deciding whether or not to make such loans. Moreover, the Bureau concluded that loans made as an occasional accommodation to existing customers were not likely to pose the same risks and harms as other types of covered loans, because such loans would be likely to operate differently and carry different incentives for the lender as compared to loans made as a primary line of business.

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    \451\ See 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(4) (``Federal consumer financial law is enforced consistently, without regard to the status of a person as a depository institution, in order to promote fair competition.'').

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    As discussed in the preceding section on alternative loans, when the Bureau exercises its exemption authority under section 1022(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act to create an exemption for ``any class of covered persons, service providers, or consumer financial products or services, from any * * * rule issued under this title,'' it has broad latitude that Congress conferred upon it to do so.\452\ Again, Congress simply said that the Bureau should exercise this authority ``as it deems necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes and objectives of this title,'' \453\ and the Bureau's general purposes and objectives are stated in section 1021 of the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, when the Bureau exercises its exemption authority under section 1022(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act, it is further required, as appropriate, to take into consideration three statutory factors: The total assets of the class of covered persons; the volume of transactions involving consumer financial products or services in which the class of covered persons engages; and existing provisions of law which are applicable to the consumer financial product or service and the extent to which such provisions provide consumers with adequate protections.\454\ Here, too, it appears that Congress intended the Bureau to do so in view of its purposes and objectives as set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act.

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    \452\ 12 U.S.C. 5512 (b)(3)(A).

    \453\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(A).

    \454\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3)(B)(i)-(iii).

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    Here, the Bureau perceives tangible benefit for consumers and for lenders to be able to maintain access to individualized loans of the kind permitted by this provision and in line with the traditions and experience of community banks over many years, which have generally underwritten these loans as an accommodation on an individualized basis in light of their existing customer relationships. In this manner, the conditional exemption would help ensure ``that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services,'' \455\ which is a principal purpose of the Dodd-Frank Act, and would not be restricted in their existing access to such traditional loan products. At the same time, this conditional exemption would enable the Bureau ``to reduce unwarranted regulatory burdens'' \456\ on these longstanding loan products made to existing bank customers on an individualized basis in light of their existing customer relationships, without posing any of the kinds of risks and harms to consumers that exist with the types of covered loans addressed by this rule.

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    \455\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(a).

    \456\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(3).

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    And though the provisions of Sec. 1041.3(f) are written in general terms to be applicable to lenders that are not themselves depository institutions, it does not appear likely that these

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    provisions would be open to wide-scale abuse, precisely because the loan and revenue restrictions are set at a de minimis level that would tend to limit the scope of any predatory behavior. Assessing the matter against the three additional statutory factors as well, then, the assets of these lenders availing themselves of this provision would likely be limited; the volume of transactions would be small, by definition and design; and Federal consumer financial law, as implemented through the Bureau's continuing supervisory and enforcement authorities and by other means as provided in the statute, would maintain consumer protections in the broader market despite this slight restriction on coverage under the rule.

    Therefore, as stated in Sec. 1041.3(f), this provision will conditionally exempt any accommodation loan from coverage under the final rule. That category is defined to apply to a covered loan made by any lender where the lender and its affiliates collectively have made 2,500 or fewer covered loans in the current calendar year and also made 2,500 or fewer covered loans in the preceding calendar year; and during the most recent completed tax year in which the lender was in operation, if applicable, the lender and any affiliates that were in operation and used the same tax year derived no more than 10 percent of their receipts from covered short-term and longer-term balloon-payment loans, or if the lender was not in operation in a prior tax year, the lender reasonably anticipates that the lender and any of its affiliates that use the same tax year will, during the current tax year, derive no more than 10 percent of their receipts from covered short-term loans and covered longer-term balloon-payment loans. Comment 3(f)-1 of the final rule provides an example of the application of this provision to a sample lender.

    Although, in general, all covered loans and the receipts from those loans would count toward the thresholds in Sec. 1041.3(f) for the number of loans per year and for receipts, Sec. 1041.3(f) allows lenders not to count toward either threshold covered longer-term loans for which the conditional exclusion for transfers in Sec. 1041.8(a)(1)(ii) applies to all transfers for payments made under the loan. As explained in the section-by-section discussion of Sec. 1041.8(a)(1)(ii), when the lender is the account-holder, that provision excludes certain transfers from the definition of payment transfer if, pursuant to the terms of the loan agreement or account agreement, the lender (1) does not charge the consumer any fee, other than a late fee under the loan agreement, in the event that the lender initiates a transfer of funds from the consumer's account in connection with the covered loan for an amount that the account lacks sufficient funds to cover; and (2) does not close the consumer's account in response to a negative balance that results from a transfer of funds initiated in connection with the covered loan. These conditions provide substantial protection against the harms targeted by the provisions in Sec. Sec. 1041.8 and 1041.9. As a result, loans for which all payment transfers are excluded under Sec. 1041.8(a)(1)(ii) from the definition of payment transfer are not subject to either the prohibition in Sec. 1041.8(b) on initiating more than two consecutive failed payment transfers or the requirement in Sec. 1041.9(b) to provide payment notices prior to initiating certain payment withdrawals. Since those loans carry with them substantial protection against the harms targeted in subpart C and would not be subject to those provisions, the Bureau believes that it is simpler not to count them for purposes of Sec. 1041.3(f) either.

    The Bureau had sought comment about the appropriate parameters of this conditional exemption, which is designed to be a de minimis provision to allow only a certain amount of lending of this kind to accommodate customers as a distinct sidelight to the institution's main lines of business. Once again, the purpose of this provision is to accommodate existing customers through what traditionally have been loans that were underwritten on an individualized basis for existing customers. It was not proposed, and is not being adopted, to stimulate the development of a model for loans that are offered in high volumes. As for the parameters that the Bureau decided on, they closely reflect the submissions received in the comment process, with both the overall loan limit (2,500 per year) and the revenue limit (no more than 10 percent of receipts) intended to keep loans made pursuant to this exemption to a very limited part of the lender's overall business. Each of the two provisions operates together to achieve that joint objective, which would not necessarily be achieved by either component operating in isolation.

    The Bureau decided to create this conditional exemption in order to respond to the persuasive points made by the commenters about the benefits that would flow from preserving this modest amount of latitude to be able to contour specialized loans as an accommodation to individual customers. That is especially so in view of the unlikelihood that this practice would pose the same kinds of risks and harms that the Bureau recognized with covered short-term loans and covered longer-

    term balloon-payment loans as described below in Market Concerns--

    Underwriting. The adoption of this conditional exemption also evinces the Bureau's recognition of the input it has heard from many stakeholders over the years, particularly from depository institutions, who have regularly supplied the Bureau with details about their perspective that smaller depository lenders such as community banks and credit unions have a long history and tradition of making loans to accommodate their existing customers for various personal reasons, such as minor expenses related to some type of family event. These loans are typically underwritten, customized, made for small amounts and at reasonable cost, and generate low levels of defaults. Although this type of accommodation lending is often quite specialized and individualized, it could be construed to overlap in certain ways with the covered loans encompassed by the rule. The conditional exemption that is now finalized in Sec. 1041.3(f) provides an effective method of addressing legitimate concerns about the potentially detrimental consequences of that overlap for consumers.

    3(g) Receipts

    The Bureau has added a new definition of the term receipts, which Sec. 1041.3(g) of the final rule defines to mean total income (or, in the case of a sole proprietorship, gross income) plus cost of goods sold as these terms are defined and reported on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax return forms (such as Form 1120 for corporations; Form 1120S and Schedule K for S corporations; Form 1120, Form 1065, or Form 1040 for LLCs; Form 1065 and Schedule K for partnerships; and Form 1040, Schedule C for sole proprietorships). Receipts do not include net capital gains or losses; taxes collected for and remitted to a taxing authority if included in gross or total income, such as sales or other taxes collected from customers but excluding taxes levied on the entity or its employees; or amounts collected for another (but fees earned in connection with such collections are receipts). Items such as subcontractor costs, reimbursements for purchases a contractor makes at a customer's request, and employee-based costs such as payroll taxes are included in receipts. This definition of receipts is modeled on the definitions of the same term in the Bureau's larger participant rulemakings for the consumer

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    reporting \457\ and debt collection markets,\458\ which in turn were based in part on the Small Business Administration's definition of receipts at 13 CFR 121.104.

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    \457\ 77 FR 42874 (July 20, 2012).

    \458\ 77 FR 65775 (Oct. 31. 2012).

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    The Bureau is adding this definition to clarify how the term is used in Sec. 1041.3(f) in the course of describing accommodation loans, and to reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators.

    3(h) Tax Year

    The Bureau has added a new definition of the term tax year, which Sec. 1041.3(h) of the final rule defines to have the same meaning attributed to this term by the IRS as set forth in IRS Publication 538, which provides that a tax year is an annual accounting period for keeping records and reporting income and expenses. The Bureau is adding this definition to clarify how the term is used in Sec. 1041.3(f) in the course of describing accommodation loans, and to reduce the risk of confusion among consumers, industry, and regulators.

    Subpart B--Underwriting

    Overview of the Bureau's Approach in the Proposal and in the Final Rule

    The Bureau proposed to identify an unfair and abusive practice with respect to the making of covered short-term loans pursuant to its authority to ``prescribe rules * * * identifying as unlawful unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.'' \459\ The proposal explained the Bureau's preliminary view that it is both an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make such a loan without reasonably determining that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan. To avoid committing this unfair and abusive practice, the Bureau stated that a lender would have to make a reasonable assessment that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan. The proposal would have established a set of requirements to prevent the unlawful practice by requiring lenders to follow certain specified underwriting practices in assessing whether the consumer has the ability to repay the loan, as well as imposing certain limitations on rapid re-borrowing. The Bureau proposed the ability-to-repay requirements under its authority to prescribe rules for ``the purpose of preventing unfair and abusive acts or practices.'' \460\

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    \459\ Public Law 111-203, section 1031(b), 124 Stat. 1376 (2010).

    \460\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(b).

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    The proposal would have further relied on section 1022(b)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Act \461\ to exempt certain covered short-term loans from the ability-to-repay requirements if the loans satisfied a set of conditions designed to avoid the harms that can result from unaffordable loans, including the harms that can flow from extended sequences of multiple loans in rapid succession. Accordingly, lenders seeking to make covered short-term loans would have the choice, on a case-by-case basis, either to comply with the ability-to-repay requirements according to the specified underwriting criteria or to make loans that meet the conditions set forth in the proposed exemption--conditions that are specifically designed as an alternative means to protect consumers against the harms that can result from unaffordable loans.

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    \461\ 12 U.S.C. 5512(b)(3).

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    As detailed further below, the Bureau has carefully considered its own research, analysis performed by others, and the public comments received with respect to this rulemaking and is now finalizing its finding that failing to reasonably determine whether consumers have the ability to repay covered short-term loans according to their terms is an unfair and abusive practice. These sources establish that unaffordable covered short-term loans generate severe harms for a substantial population of consumers. The Bureau has made the judgment that the harms and risks of such loans can be addressed most effectively by requiring lenders to underwrite such loans in accordance with specific criteria and thus not to make such a loan without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan according to its terms. The Bureau has also retained the conditional exemption, while noting that the conditions on such loans, which are specifically designed as an alternative means to protect consumers against the harms that can result from unaffordable loans, will likely prompt lenders to consider more carefully their criteria for making such loans as well, given that defaults and delinquencies can no longer be offset by the revenues from repeated re-borrowing. The Bureau has modified various details of the proposed rule with respect to the underwriting criteria for the ability-to-repay requirement and the conditional exemption to strike a better balance among compliance burdens and other concerns, but has maintained the basic framework that was initially set forth in the proposed rule.

    The Bureau also proposed to identify the same unfair and abusive practice with respect to the failure to assess consumers' ability to repay certain longer-term loans, including both installment and balloon-payment structures, as long as the loans exceeded certain price thresholds and involved the taking of either a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security. The Bureau proposed to subject these covered longer-term loans to underwriting requirements similar to those for covered short-term loans, as well as proposing two exemptions for loans that satisfied different sets of conditions designed to avoid the risks and harms that can result from unaffordable loans.

    As detailed further below, the Bureau has carefully considered its own research, analysis performed by others, and the public comments received with respect to the proposed treatment of covered longer-term loans, and has decided to take a bifurcated approach at this time to concerns about unfair or abusive underwriting of longer-term loans. With regard to balloon payment structures, the Bureau finds that failing to reasonably assess whether consumers have the ability to repay covered longer-term balloon-payment loans according to specific underwriting criteria is an unfair and abusive practice. Because they require large lump-sum or irregular payments, these loans impose financial hardships and payment shocks on consumers that are similar to those posed by short-term loans over just one or two income cycles. Indeed, the Bureau's analysis of longer-term balloon-payment loans in the market for vehicle title loans found that borrowers experienced high default rates--notably higher than for similar loans with amortizing installment payments. The Bureau also has concluded that the outcomes between a single-payment loan with a term of 46 or more days is unlikely to be much different for consumers than an identical loan with a term of 45 days, and is concerned that failing to cover longer-

    term balloon-payment loans would induce lenders to slightly extend the terms of their existing short-term lump-sum loans in an effort to evade coverage under the final rule, as occurred in this market in response to regulations adopted under the Military Lending Act.

    For these reasons, the Bureau is finalizing its finding that failing to reasonably assess whether consumers have the ability to repay covered longer-term balloon-payment loans is an unfair and abusive practice. The Bureau has made the judgment that these risks and harms can be addressed most effectively--as with covered short-term loans--by requiring lenders to

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    underwrite such loans in accordance with specified criteria and thus not to make such a loan without reasonably determining that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan according to its terms. After having sought comment on the issue of whether longer-term balloon-payment loans should be covered regardless of price or the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security, the Bureau has decided, in light of the risks to consumers, to apply the rule to all such loans, aside from certain exclusions and exemptions described above in Sec. 1041.3 of the final rule.

    The Bureau has decided, however, not to move forward with its primary finding that it is an unfair and abusive practice to make certain higher-cost longer-term installment loans without making a reasonable determination that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan, and, accordingly, its prescription of underwriting requirements designed to prevent that practice. The Bureau has decided to defer this aspect of the proposal for further consideration in a later rulemaking. After consideration of the research and the public comments, the Bureau has concluded that further analysis and outreach are warranted with respect to such loans, as well as other types of credit products on which the Bureau sought comment as part of the Request for Information. While such loans differ in certain ways from the loans covered in this final rule, the Bureau remains concerned that failing to underwrite such products may nonetheless pose substantial risk for consumers. The Bureau will continue to gather evidence about the risks and harms of such products for consideration as a general matter in a later rulemaking, and will continue in the meantime to scrutinize such lending for potential unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices pursuant to its supervisory and enforcement authority.

    And, as detailed in subpart C below, the Bureau has concluded that it is appropriate to apply certain limitations and disclosure requirements concerning payment practices (and related recordkeeping requirements) to longer-term installment loans with a cost of credit above 36 percent that involve the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism.

    The predicate for the identification of an unfair and abusive practice in the Bureau's proposal--and thus for the preventive ability-

    to-repay requirements--was a set of preliminary findings about the consumers who use storefront and online payday loans, single-payment vehicle title loans, and other covered short-term loans, and the impact on those consumers of the practice of making such loans without assessing the consumers' ability to repay. The preliminary findings as set forth in the proposal, the comments that the Bureau received on them, and the Bureau's responses to those comments as the foundation of its final rule are all discussed below in the following section referred to as Market Concerns--Underwriting. Further in the discussion below, the Bureau also addresses the same issues with respect to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans.

    Market Concerns--Underwriting

    Short-Term Loans

    In the proposal, the Bureau stated its concern that lending practices in the markets for storefront and online payday lending, single-payment vehicle title loans, and other covered short-term loans are causing harm to many consumers who use these products. Those harms include default, delinquency, and re-borrowing, as well as various collateral harms from making unaffordable payments. This section reviews the available evidence with respect to the consumers who use covered short-term loans, their reasons for doing so, and the outcomes they experience. It also reviews the lender practices that contribute to these outcomes. The discussion begins with the main points presented in this section of the proposal, stated in summary form, and provides a high-level overview of the general responses offered by the commenters. More specific issues and comments are then treated in more detail in the succeeding subsections. In the proposal, the Bureau's preliminary views were stated in summary form as follows:

    Lower-income, lower-savings consumers. Consumers who use these products tend to come from lower- or moderate-income households. They generally do not have any savings to fall back on, and they have very limited access to other sources of credit; indeed, typically they have sought unsuccessfully to obtain other, lower cost, credit before turning to a short-term loan. The commenters generally validated these factual points, though many disputed the inferences and conclusions to be drawn from these points, whereas others agreed with them. Individual commenters generally validated the factual descriptions of these characteristics of borrowers as well.

    Consumers in financial difficulty. Some consumers turn to these products because they have experienced a sudden drop in income (``income shock'') or a large unexpected expense (``expense shock''). Other borrowers are in circumstances in which their expenses consistently outstrip their income. A sizable percentage of users report that they would have taken a loan on almost any terms offered. Again, the commenters generally validated these points as a factual matter, but disputed the inferences and conclusions to be drawn therefrom.

    Loans do not function as marketed. Lenders market single-

    payment products as short-term loans designed to provide a bridge to the consumer's next payday or other income receipt. In practice, however, the amounts due on these loans consume such a large portion of the consumer's paycheck or other periodic income source as to be unaffordable for most consumers seeking to recover from an income or expense shock, and even more so for consumers with a chronic income shortfall. Lenders actively encourage consumers either simply to pay the finance charges due and roll over the loan instead of repaying the loan in full (or effectively roll over the loan by engaging in back-to-

    back transactions or returning to re-borrow in no more than a few days after repaying the loan). Indeed, lenders are dependent upon such re-

    borrowing for a substantial portion of their revenue and would lose money if each borrower repaid the loan when it was due without re-

    borrowing. The commenters tended to recharacterize these points rather than disputing them as a factual matter, though many industry commenters disagreed that these loans should be considered ``unaffordable'' for ``most'' consumers if many consumers manage to repay them after borrowing once or twice. Others contended that these loans should not be considered ``unaffordable'' if they are repaid eventually, even after re-borrowing multiple times in extended loan sequences. The commenters on all sides generally did not dispute the nature of the underlying business model as resting on repeat re-

    borrowing that lenders actively encourage, though they sharply disputed whether this model benefited or harmed consumers.

    Very high re-borrowing rates. Most borrowers find it necessary to re-borrow when their loan comes due or shortly after repaying their loan, as other expenses come due. This re-borrowing occurs both with payday loans and with single-payment vehicle title loans. The Bureau found that 56 percent of payday loans are borrowed on the same day and 85 percent of these loans are re-borrowed within a month. Fifty percent

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    of all new storefront payday loans are followed by at least three more loans and 33 percent are followed by six more loans. While single-

    payment vehicle title loans are often for somewhat longer durations than payday loans, typically with terms of one month, re-borrowing tends to occur sooner and longer sequences of loans are more common. The Bureau found that 83 percent of single-payment vehicle title loans are re-borrowed on the same day and 85 percent of them are re-borrowed within a month. Over half (56 percent) of all new single-payment vehicle title loans are followed by at least three more loans, and more than a third (36 percent) are followed by six or more loans. Of the payday loans made to borrowers paid weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-monthly, over 20 percent are in loan sequences of 20 loans or more and over 40 percent of loans made to borrowers paid monthly are in loan sequences of comparable durations (i.e., 10 or more monthly loans). The commenters did not challenge the thrust of these points as demonstrating a high incidence of re-borrowing, which is a point that was reinforced by consumer groups and was illustrated by many individual commenters as well.

    Consumers do not expect lengthy loan sequences. Many consumers who take out a payday loan do not expect to re-borrow to the extent that they do. This is especially true of those consumers who end up in extended cycles of indebtedness. Research shows that many consumers who take out loans are able to accurately predict how long it will take them to get out of debt, especially if they repay immediately or re-borrow only once, but a substantial population of consumers is not able to do so, and for those consumers who end up in extended loan sequences, there is little correlation between predictions and behavior. A study on this topic found that as many as 43 percent of borrowers may have underestimated the length of time to repayment by two weeks or more.\462\ The study found that consumers who have borrowed heavily in the recent past are even more likely to underestimate how long it will take to repay the loan.\463\ Consumers' difficulty in this regard may be exacerbated by the fact that such loans involve a basic mismatch between how they are marketed as short-

    term credit and appear designed to function as long sequences of re-

    borrowing, which regularly occurs for a number of consumers. This disparity can create difficulties for consumers in being able to estimate accurately how long they will remain in debt and how much they will ultimately pay for the initial extension of credit. Research into consumer decision-making also helps explain why consumers may re-borrow more than they expect. For example, people under stress, including consumers in financial crisis, tend to become very focused on their immediate problems and think less about the future. Consumers also tend to underestimate their future expenses, and may be overly optimistic about their ability to recover from the shock they have experienced or to bring their expenses in line with their incomes. These points were sharply disputed by the commenters, and will be discussed further below.

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    \462\ See Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Sup. Ct. Econ. Rev. 105 (2013).

    \463\ See id.

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    Very high default rates and collateral harms. Some consumers do succeed in repaying short-term loans without re-borrowing, and others eventually repay the loan after re-borrowing multiple times. But research shows that approximately 20 percent of payday loan sequences and 33 percent of single-payment vehicle title loan sequences end up with the consumer defaulting. Consumers who default can become subject to often aggressive and psychologically harmful debt collection efforts. While delinquent, they may also seek to avoid default in ways that lead to a loss of control over budgeting for their other needs and expenses. In addition, 20 percent of single-payment vehicle title loan sequences end with borrowers losing their cars or trucks to repossession. Even borrowers who have not yet defaulted may incur penalty fees, late fees, or overdraft fees along the way and may find themselves struggling to pay other bills or meet their basic living expenses. Commenters generally did not dispute that consumers may feel the effects of these negative collateral consequences of such loans and of delinquency and default, though industry commenters tended to downplay them and some argued that any such harms were outweighed by the economic benefits of such loans. Individual commenters validated this account of the negative collateral consequences of such loans as reflecting their own experiences. Many others countered that they had successful experiences with these loans and that they were benefited more than they were harmed by these experiences.

    Harms occur despite existing regulation. The research indicates that in the States that have authorized payday and other short-term loans, these harms persist despite existing regulatory frameworks. Indeed, payday loans do not legally exist in many States, so by definition the harms identified by the Bureau's research flow from such loans in those States where they are offered pursuant to existing regulatory frameworks. Even in those States where such loans are offered pursuant to somewhat different conditions, these distinctions do not appear to eliminate the harms that flow from the structure of such loans. In particular, the Bureau is concerned that existing caps on the amount that a consumer can borrow, rollover limitations, and short cooling-off periods still appear to leave many consumers vulnerable to the specific harms discussed above relating to default, delinquency, re-borrowing, and other collateral harms from attempting to avoid the other injuries by making unaffordable payments. Industry commenters took issue with these concerns and disputed this characterization of the effects of such loans.

    In the proposal, the Bureau also reviewed the available evidence underlying each of these preliminary views. The Bureau sought and received comments on its review of the evidence, and those comments are reviewed and addressed in the discussion below. Based on the reasons set forth in each of the segments in this part, which respond to the comments and present further analysis that the Bureau has engaged in to consider these matters further, the Bureau now adopts as its findings underlying the final rule its views as stated in this initial summary overview, with certain modifications as set forth below.

    a. Borrower Characteristics and Circumstances of Borrowing

    As the Bureau laid out in the proposal, borrowers who take out payday, single-payment vehicle title, and other covered short-term loans are typically low-to-moderate income consumers who are looking for quick access to cash, who have little to no savings, who often have poor credit histories, and who have limited access to other forms of credit. Comments received from industry participants, trade associations, and individual users of these loans noted that this description of the borrower population does not describe all of the people who use these loans. That is so, of course, but the Bureau's discussion in the proposal was not intended as an exhaustive account of the entire universe of borrowers. Instead, it merely represented many of the recurring borrower characteristics that the Bureau

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    found based on its experience with such loans over the past several years and based on data from a number of studies as discussed further below.

    In the proposal, the Bureau had found preliminarily that the desire borrowers have for immediate cash may be the result of an emergency expense or an unanticipated drop in income. The comments received from industry participants, trade associations, and individual users of these loans strongly reinforce the basis for this finding. Many comments describe the function that these loans perform as coping with income and expense shocks--that is, with unexpected, temporary expenses or shortfalls in income. These comments cited surveys and studies to bolster this point, including one survey that noted 86 percent of borrowers strongly or somewhat agreed that their use of a payday loan was to cope with an unexpected expense. Many other comments, including comments from individual users of these loans, offered anecdotal accounts of the personal reasons many borrowers have for taking out these loans, including a wide variety of circumstances that can create such income or expense shocks. Comments received from consumer groups were also in agreement on these points and further underscored a shared understanding that this impetus drives much of the demand for such loans.

    The comments received from industry participants, trade associations, and individual users of these loans made a different point as well. One trade association, for example, noted that many consumers use such loans for ``income smoothing'' or to create a better match between income and expenses in the face of income and expense volatility--that is, where the consumer's income or expenses fluctuate over the course of the year, such that credit is needed during times of lower income or higher expenses to tide the consumer over until times of higher income or lower expenses. Many reasons were given by commenters, including a high volume of individual commenters, for such income and expense volatility, and the following examples are merely illustrative of the broader and more widespread phenomenon: People who work on commission; people scheduled to receive one-time or intermittent income supplements, such as holiday bonuses; people who work irregular hours, including many contractor or part-time workers; people who have seasonal opportunities to earn extra income by working additional hours; or circumstances that may arise that create the need or the opportunity to satisfy in full some other outstanding debt that is pressing. Comments from consumer groups echoed these accounts of how these economic situations drive a certain amount of the demand for such loans. The nature and weight of these comments thus lend further support to the preliminary findings that the Bureau had made on these issues.

    In the proposal, the Bureau also noted that many borrowers who take out payday or single-payment vehicle title loans are consumers whose living expenses routinely exceed their income. This category of borrowers may consistently experience negative residual income, or to use a common phrase, find that they routinely have ``too much month at the end of the money'' and take out such loans in an effort to bolster their income--an effort that often proves to be unsuccessful when they are later unable to repay the loan according to its terms. Various commenters agreed with this account of some borrowers, and some of the individual commenters likewise described their own experiences in this vein.

    In addition, some commenters noted that certain borrowers may use these kinds of loans to manage accumulated debt, preferring to use the proceeds of the loan to pay down other debt for which nonpayment or default would be more costly alternatives. This was not frequently cited as a reason why many borrowers decide to take out such loans, but it may explain occasional instances.

    1. Borrower Characteristics

    In the proposal, the Bureau noted that a number of studies have focused on the characteristics of payday borrowers. For instance, the FDIC and the U.S. Census Bureau have undertaken several special supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS Supplement); the proposal cited the most recent available data from 2013, which found that 46 percent of payday borrowers (including storefront and online borrowers) have a family income of under $30,000.\464\ The latest edition of the Survey has more recent data from 2015, which finds that the updated figure is 49 percent.\465\ A study covering a mix of storefront and online payday borrowers similarly found that 49 percent had income of $25,000 or less.\466\ Other analyses of administrative data that include the income borrowers reported to lenders show similar results.\467\

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    \464\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2013 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households: Appendices,'' at appendix. D-

    12a (Oct. 2014), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013/2013appendix.pdf.

    \465\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,'' (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf (Calculations made using custom data tool.).

    \466\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 35 exhibit 14 (Report 1, 2012), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/

    uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf.

    \467\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 18 (reporting that based on confidential supervisory data of a number of storefront payday lenders, borrowers had a reported median annual income of $22,476 at the time of application (not necessarily household income)). Similarly, data from several State regulatory agencies indicate that average incomes range from about $31,000 (Delaware) to slightly over $36,000 (Washington). See Letter from Robert A. Glen, Del. State Bank Comm'r to Hon. Bryan Townsend, Chairman, S. Banking and Bus. Comm. and Hon. Bryon H. Short, Chairman, H. Econ. Dev./Banking/Ins./Commerce Comm. (enclosing Veritec Solutions, ``State of Delaware Short-term Consumer Loan Program--Report on Delaware Short-term Consumer Loan Activity For the Year Ending December 31, 2014,'' at 6 (Mar. 12, 2015), available at http://banking.delaware.gov/pdfs/annual/Short_Term_Consumer_Loan_Database_2014_Operations_Report.pdf; Wash. Dep't of Fin. Insts., ``2014 Payday Lending Report,'' at 6 (2014), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2014-payday-lending-report.pdf; nonPrime 101 found the median income for online payday borrowers to be $30,000. nonPrime101, ``Report 1: Profiling Internet Small-Dollar Lending,'' at 7 (2014), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Clarity-Services-Profiling-Internet-Small-Dollar-Lending.pdf.

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    A 2012 survey administered by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) to learn more about users of small-dollar credit products including payday loans, pawn loans, direct deposit advances, installment loans, and auto title loans found that 43 percent of small-

    dollar credit consumers had a household income between $0 and $25,000, compared to 26 percent of non-small-dollar credit consumers.\468\ The mean annual household income for those making use of such products was $32,000, compared to $40,000 for those not using such products. Other studies and survey evidence presented by commenters were broadly consistent with the data and analysis contained in the studies that the Bureau had cited on this point.

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    \468\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

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    Additionally, the Bureau found in its analysis of confidential supervisory data that 18 percent of storefront borrowers relied on Social Security or some other form of government benefits or public assistance.\469\ The FDIC study further found that payday borrowers are disproportionately Hispanic or African-

    Page 54557

    American (with borrowing rates two to three times higher respectively than for non-Hispanic whites) and that unmarried female-headed families are more than twice as likely as married couples to be payday borrowers.\470\ The CFSI study discussed above upheld this general assessment with regard to race, with African-American and Hispanic borrowers over-represented among such borrowers.\471\ The commenters did not take issue with these points, and various submissions across the broad spectrum of stakeholders, including both industry participants and consumer groups, consistently reinforced the point that these loans disproportionately go to minority borrowers.

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    \469\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 18.

    \470\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,'' (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf (Calculations made using custom data tool.).

    \471\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

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    The demographic profiles of single-payment vehicle title borrowers appear to be roughly comparable to the demographics of payday borrowers.\472\ Calculations from the CPS Supplement indicate that 44 percent of title borrowers have annual family incomes under $30,000.\473\ Another survey likewise found that 54 percent of title borrowers reported incomes below $30,000, compared with 60 percent for payday borrowers.\474\ Commenters presented some data to suggest that various borrowers are more educated and that many are middle-aged, but these results did not alter the great weight of the overall survey data on this point.

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    \472\ None of the sources of information on the characteristics of vehicle title borrowers that the Bureau is aware of distinguishes between borrowers taking out single-payment and installment vehicle title loans. The statistics provided here are for borrowers taking out either type of vehicle title loan.

    \473\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,'' (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf (Calculations made using custom data tool.).

    \474\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers Experiences,'' at 28 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2015/03/

    autotitleloansreport.pdf; Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 35 (Report 1, 2012), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/

    uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf.

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    And as with payday borrowers, data from the CPS Supplement show vehicle title borrowers to be disproportionately African-American or Hispanic, and more likely to live in unmarried female-headed families.\475\ Similarly, a survey of borrowers in three States conducted by academic researchers found that title borrowers were disproportionately female and minority. Over 58 percent of title borrowers were female. African-Americans were over-represented among borrowers compared to their share of their States' population at large. Hispanic borrowers were over-represented in two of the three States; however, these borrowers were under-represented in Texas, the State with the highest proportion of Hispanic residents in the study.\476\ Commenters generally did not take issue with these points, and various submissions from both industry participants and consumer groups support the view that they are an accurate reflection of the borrower population. One commenter contended that the data did not show vehicle title borrowers to be disproportionately minority consumers, though this view did not seem to take into account the composition of the total population in the States that were surveyed.

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    \475\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,'' (Oct. 20, 2016), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2015/2015report.pdf (Calculations made using custom data tool.).

    \476\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, at 1029-1030 (2014).

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    As noted in the proposal, studies of payday borrowers' credit histories show both poor credit histories and recent credit-seeking activity. One academic paper that matched administrative data from one storefront payday lender to credit bureau data found that the median credit score for a payday applicant was in the bottom 15 percent of credit scores overall.\477\ The median applicant had one open credit card, but 80 percent of applicants had either no credit card or no credit available on a card. The average borrower had 5.2 credit inquiries on her credit report over the preceding 12 months before her initial application for a payday loan (three times the number for the general population), but obtained only 1.4 accounts on average. This suggests that borrowers made repeated but generally unsuccessful efforts to obtain additional other forms of credit prior to initiating a payday loan. While typical payday borrowers may have one or more credit cards, they are unlikely to have unused credit; in fact, they are often delinquent on one or more cards, and have often experienced multiple overdrafts and/or NSFs on their checking accounts.\478\ A recent report analyzing credit scores of borrowers from five large storefront payday lenders provides corroborative support, finding that the average borrower had a VantageScore 3.0 \479\ score of 532 and that over 85 percent of borrowers had a score below 600, indicating high credit risk.\480\ By way of comparison, the national average VantageScore is 669 and only 30 percent of consumers have a VantageScore below 600.\481\

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    \477\ Neil Bhutta et al., ``Consumer Borrowing after Payday Loan Bans,'' 59 J. of L. and Econ. 225, at 231-233 (2016). Note that the credit score used in this analysis was the Equifax Risk Score which ranges from 280-850. Frederic Huynh, ``FICO Score Distribution,'' FICO Blog (Apr. 15, 2013), http://www.fico.com/en/blogs/risk-compliance/fico-score-distribution-remains-mixed/.

    \478\ Neil Bhutta et al., ``Consumer Borrowing after Payday Loan Bans,'' 59 J. of L. and Econ. 225, at 231-233 (2016).

    \479\ A VantageScore 3.0 score is a credit score created by an eponymous joint venture of the three major credit reporting companies; scores lie on the range 300-850.

    \480\ nonPrime101, ``Report 8: Can Storefront Payday Borrowers Become Installment Loan Borrowers?,'' at 7 (2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/blog/can-storefront-payday-borrowers-become-installment-loan-borrowers/.

    \481\ Experian, ``What is Your State of Credit,'' (2015), available at http://www.experian.com/live-credit-smart/state-of-credit-2015.html.

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    The proposal also cited reports using data from a specialty consumer reporting agency, which indicate that online borrowers have comparable credit scores to storefront borrowers (a mean VantageScore 3.0 score of 525 versus 532 for storefront).\482\ Another study based on the data from the same specialty consumer reporting agency and an accompanying survey of online small-dollar credit borrowers reported that 79 percent of those surveyed had been denied traditional credit in the past year due to having a low or no credit score, 62 percent had already sought assistance from family and friends, and 24 percent reported having negotiated with a creditor to whom they owed money.\483\ Moreover, heavy use of online payday loans seems to be correlated with more strenuous credit-seeking: compared to light (bottom quartile) users of online loans, heavy (top quartile) users were more likely to

    Page 54558

    have been denied credit in the past year (87 percent of heavy users compared to 68 percent of light users).\484\

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    \482\ nonPrime101, ``Report 8: Can Storefront Payday Borrowers Become Installment Loan Borrowers?,'' at 5 (2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/blog/can-storefront-payday-borrowers-become-installment-loan-borrowers/. Twenty percent of online borrowers are unable to be scored; for storefront borrowers the percentage of unscorable consumers is negligible. However, this may partly reflect the limited quality of the data online lenders obtain and/or report about their customers and resulting inability to obtain a credit report match.

    \483\ Stephen Nunez et al., ``Online Payday and Installment Loans: Who Uses Them and Why?, at 44, 51, 60 (MDRC, 2016), available at http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/online_payday_2016_FR.pdf.

    \484\ Stephen Nunez et al., ``Online Payday and Installment Loans: Who Uses Them and Why?, at 38 tbl. 6 (MDRC, 2016), available at http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/online_payday_2016_FR.pdf.

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    In the proposal, the Bureau also noted that other surveys of payday borrowers added to the picture of consumers in financial distress. For example, in a survey of payday borrowers published in 2009, fewer than half reported having any savings or reserve funds.\485\ Almost a third of borrowers (31.8 percent) reported monthly debt-to-income payments of 30 percent or higher, and more than a third (36.4 percent) of borrowers reported that they regularly spend all the income they receive. Similarly, a 2010 survey found that over 80 percent of payday borrowers reported making at least one late payment on a bill in the preceding three months, and approximately one quarter reported frequently paying bills late. Approximately half reported bouncing at least one check in the previous three months, and 30 percent reported doing so more than once.\486\ Furthermore, a 2012 survey found that 58 percent of payday borrowers report that they struggled to pay their bills on time. More than a third (37 percent) said they would have taken out a loan on almost any terms offered. This figure rises to 46 percent when the respondent rated his or her financial situation as particularly poor.\487\

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    \485\ Gregory Elliehausen, ``An Analysis of Consumers' Use of Payday Loans,'' at 29 (Geo. Wash. Sch. of Bus., Monograph No. 41, 2009), available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237554300_AN_ANALYSIS_OF_CONSUMERS%27_USE_OF_PAYDAY_LOANS.

    \486\ Jonathan Zinman, ``Restricting Consumer Credit Access: Household Survey Evidence on Effects Around the Oregon Rate Cap,'' at 20 tbl. 1 (Dartmouth College, 2008), available at http://

    www.dartmouth.edu/~jzinman/Papers/

    Zinman_RestrictingAccess_oct08.pdf.

    \487\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans,'' at 20 (Report 2, 2013), http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2013/02/19/how-borrowers-choose-and-repay-payday-loans.

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    A large number of comments received from industry participants, trade associations, consumer groups, academics, and individual users of these loans extensively reinforced this picture of the financial situation for many storefront and online borrowers. Industry participants and trade associations presented their understanding of the characteristics of the borrower population as being marked by poor credit histories, an acute need for credit, aggressive efforts to seek credit, and general unavailability of other means of credit for many of these borrowers. In many of the comments, these characteristics were described in particular detail and emphasized as making the case to show the need for the availability of such loans. Many individual users of these loans also related their own personal stories and situations, which were typically marked by these same features of their financial histories that demonstrated their need for credit products.

    Despite these points of general agreement, many industry participants, trade associations, individual users of such loans, and some academics submitted comments that vigorously disagreed with what they regarded as assumptions the Bureau had made in the proposal about payday and vehicle title borrowers. In their view, the Bureau was wrongly portraying these consumers as financially unsophisticated and incapable of acting in their own best interests. On the contrary, many of these commenters stated, such borrowers are often very knowledgeable about the costs and terms of such loans. Their decision to take out a payday or vehicle title loan was represented, in many instances, as being based on a rational judgment that access to this form of credit is far more valuable than reducing the risks and costs associated with their indebtedness.

    The Bureau recognizes that the characteristics of individual users of payday and single-payment vehicle title loans are differentiated in many and various ways. Much of the debate here represents different characterizations and opinions about potential conclusions drawn from the facts, rather than direct disagreements about the facts themselves. These issues are important and they are considered further in the discussions of unfairness and abusiveness under final Sec. 1041.4.

    2. Circumstances of Borrowing

    The proposal discussed several surveys that have asked borrowers why they took out their loans or for what purpose they used the loan proceeds, and noted that these are challenging questions to study. Any survey that asks about past behavior or events runs some risk of recall errors.\488\ In addition, the fact that money is fungible makes this question more complicated. For example, a consumer who has an unexpected expense may not feel the effect fully until weeks later, depending on the timing of the unexpected expense relative to other expenses and to the receipt of income. In that circumstance, a borrower may say either that she took out the loan because of the unexpected expense, or that she took out the loan to cover regular expenses. Perhaps because of this difficulty, results across surveys are somewhat inconsistent, with one finding high levels of unexpected expenses, while others find that payday loans are used primarily to pay for regular expenses.

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    \488\ See generally David Grimes and Kenneth F. Schulz, ``Bias and Causal Associations in Observational Research,'' 359 Lancet 9302, at 248-252. (2002); see E. Hassan, ``Recall Bias Can Be a Threat to Retrospective and Prospective Research Designs,'' 3 Internet J. of Epidemiology 2 (2005) (for a more specific discussion of recall bias).

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    In the first survey discussed in the proposal, a 2007 survey of payday borrowers, the most common reason cited for taking out a loan was ``an unexpected expense that could not be postponed,'' with 71 percent of respondents strongly agreeing with this reason and 16 percent somewhat agreeing.\489\ A 2012 survey of payday loan borrowers, by contrast, found that 69 percent of respondents took their first payday loan to cover a recurring expense, such as utilities, rent, or credit card bills, and only 16 percent took their first loan for an unexpected expense.\490\

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    \489\ Gregory Elliehausen, ``An Analysis of Consumers' Use of Payday Loans,'' at 35 (Geo. Wash. Sch. of Bus., Monograph No. 41, 2009), available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237554300_AN_ANALYSIS_OF_CONSUMERS%27_USE_OF_PAYDAY_LOANS.

    \490\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why,'' at 5 (Report 1, 2012), available at attp://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/

    pcs_assets/2012/pewpaydaylendingreportpdf.pdf.

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    The 2012 CFSI survey of alternative small-dollar credit products, discussed earlier in this section asked separate questions about what borrowers used the loan proceeds for and what precipitated the loan.\491\ Responses were reported for ``very short term'' and ``short term'' credit; ``very short term'' referred to payday, pawn, and deposit advance products. Respondents could report up to three reasons for what precipitated the loan; the most common reason given for very-

    short-term borrowing (approximately 37 percent of respondents) was ``I had a bill or payment due before my paycheck arrived,'' which the authors of the report on the survey results interpreted as a mismatch in the timing of income and expenses. Unexpected expenses were cited by 30 percent of very-short-term borrowers, and approximately 27

    Page 54559

    percent reported unexpected drops in income. Approximately 34 percent reported that their general living expenses were consistently more than their income. Respondents could also report up to three uses for the funds; the most common answers related to paying for routine expenses, with about 40 percent reporting the funds were used to ``pay utility bills,'' about 40 percent reporting the funds were used to pay ``general living expenses,'' and about 20 percent saying the funds were used to pay rent. Of all the reasons for borrowing, consistent shortfalls in income relative to expenses was the response most highly correlated with consumers who reported repeated usage or rollovers.

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    \491\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

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    A survey of 768 online payday users conducted in 2015 and drawn from a large administrative database of payday borrowers looked at similar questions, and compared the answers of heavy and light users of online loans.\492\ Based on consumers' self-reported borrowing history, they were segmented into heavy users (users with borrowing frequency in the top quartile of the dataset) and light users (bottom quartile). Heavy users were much more likely to report that they ``in past three months, often or always ran out of money before the end of the month'' (60 percent versus 34 percent). In addition, heavy users were nearly twice as likely as light users to state their primary reason for seeking their most recent payday loan as being to pay for ``regular expenses such as utilities, car payment, credit card bill, or prescriptions'' (49 percent versus 28 percent). Heavy users were less than half as likely as light users to state their reason as being to pay for an ``unexpected expense or emergency'' (21 percent versus 43 percent). Notably, 18 percent of heavy users stated that their primary reason for seeking a payday loan online was that they ``had a storefront loan, needed another loan'' as compared to just over one percent of light users.

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    \492\ Stephen Nunez et al., ``Online Payday and Installment Loans: Who Uses Them and Why?, (MDRC, 2016), available at http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/online_payday_2016_FR.pdf (A demand-side analysis from linked administrative, survey, and qualitative interview data.).

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    One industry commenter asserted that a significant share of vehicle title loan borrowers were small business owners who use these loans for business, rather than personal uses. The commenter pointed to one study that cited anonymous ``industry sources'' who claimed that 25-30 percent of title borrowers were small businesses \493\ and another study that cited an unpublished lender survey which found that about 20 percent of borrowers were self-employed.\494\ Evidence was not provided by the commenter to document the share of vehicle title loan borrowers who are either self-employed or small business owners; however, the Bureau notes that it is important to distinguish between borrowers who may be small business owners but may not necessarily use a title loan for a business purpose. For example, one survey of title loan borrowers found that while 16 percent of title loan borrowers were self-employed, only 6 percent of title loan borrowers state that they took the loan for a business expense.\495\ The study's authors concluded that ``. . . it seems like business credit is not a significant portion of the loans.'' \496\ Another survey found that 20 percent of title loan borrowers are self-employed, and an additional 3 percent were both self-employed and worked for an employer. In that survey, 3 percent of title loan borrowers reported the loan was for a business expense and 2 percent reported the loan was for a mix of personal and business use.\497\

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    \493\ Todd. J. Zywicki, ``Consumer Use and Government Regulation of Title Pledge Lending, 22 Loyola Cons. Law. Rev. 4 (2010), available at http://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=lclr.

    \494\ Jim Hawkins, ``Credit on Wheels: The Law and Business of Auto-Title Lending,'' 69 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 535, 545 (2012).

    \495\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, 1033 (2014).

    \496\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, 1036 (2014).

    \497\ See Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans,'' at 29 (March 2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/

    2015/03/autotitleloansreport.pdf.

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    Some commenters agreed with the Bureau that the results across surveys are somewhat inconsistent, perhaps because of methodological issues. Industry commenters predictably chose to place more emphasis on the results that accorded with their arguments that these loans help consumers cope with financial shocks or allow smoothing of income. By contrast, consumer groups predictably took the opposite perspective. They contended that these loans do present special risks and harms for consumers that outweigh the benefits of access to such loans without being subject to any underwriting, especially for those consumers who experience chronic shortfalls of income. Both groups of commenters chose to downplay the results that tended to undermine their arguments. On the whole, these comments do not call into question the Bureau's treatment of the factual issues here, but go more to the potential characterization of those facts or the inferences to be drawn from them. Those issues are discussed further in the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.4 below.

    A number of comments from industry participants and trade associations faulted the Bureau for not undertaking to conduct its own surveys of borrowers to gauge the circumstances that lead them to use payday, title, or other covered short-term loans. Although the Bureau had reviewed and analyzed at least four different surveys of such borrowers conducted over the past decade, as discussed above, these commenters stated that the Bureau would have furthered its understanding by speaking with and hearing directly from such borrowers. Nonetheless, many of these commenters offered further non-

    survey information of this kind by referencing the consumer narratives in thousands of individual consumer complaints about payday, title, and other covered loans that have been filed with the Bureau (which also include a substantial number of debt collection complaints stemming from such loans). They also pointed to individual responses that have been filed about such loans on the Bureau's online ``Tell Your Story'' function, where some number of individual borrowers have explained how they use such loans, often describing the benefits and challenges they have experienced as a result.

    In addition, a large volume of comments--totaling well over a million comments about the proposal, both pro and con--were filed with the Bureau by individual users of payday and vehicle title loans. Many of these commenters described their own personal experiences with these loans, and others offered their perspectives. The Bureau has reviewed these comments and has carefully considered the stories they told. These comments include a large number of positive accounts of how people successfully used such loans to address shortfalls or cope with emergencies and concerns about the possibility of access to such loans being removed. The comments included fewer but still a very sizable number of other accounts, much more negative in tone, of how consumers who took out such loans became trapped in long cycles of repeated re-

    borrowing that led to financial distress, marked by problems such as budgetary distortions, high collateral costs, the loss of depository accounts and other services, ultimate default on the loans, and the loss of other assets such as people's homes and their vehicles. Some of these comments

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    came from the individual consumers themselves, while many came from friends, family members, clergy, legal aid attorneys, neighbors, or others who were concerned about the impact the loans had on consumers whom they knew, and in some cases whom they had helped to mitigate the negative experience through financial assistance, counseling, or legal assistance. The enormous volume of such individual comments itself helps to provide considerably more information about borrowers that helps to supplement the prior survey data discussed in the proposal. It appears that various parties on both sides of these issues went to great lengths to solicit such a large number of comment submissions by and about individual users of such loans.

    The substantial volume and variation of individual comments have further added to the Bureau's understanding of the wide variety of circumstances in which such borrowing occurs. They underscore the Bureau's recognition that not only the personal characteristics, but also the particularized circumstances, of individual users of payday and single-payment vehicle title loans can be quite differentiated from one another across the market. Nonetheless, the focus of this rule is on how the identified lender practice of making such loans without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay the loan according to its terms affects this broad and diverse universe of consumers.

    b. Lender Practices

    As described in the proposal, the business model of lenders who make payday and single-payment vehicle title loans is predicated on the lenders' ability to secure extensive re-borrowing. As recounted in the Background section, the typical storefront payday loan has a principal amount of $350, and the consumer pays a typical fee of 15 percent of the principal amount. For a consumer who takes out such a loan and repays it when it is due without re-borrowing, this means the typical loan would produce roughly $50 in revenue to the lender. Lenders would thus require a large number of ``one-and-done'' consumers to cover their overhead and acquisition costs and generate profits. However, because lenders are able to induce a large percentage of borrowers to repeatedly re-borrow, lenders have built a model in which the typical storefront lender, as discussed in part II above, has two or three employees serving around 500 customers per year. Online lenders do not have the same overhead costs, but they have been willing to pay substantial acquisition costs to lead generators and to incur substantial fraud losses, all of which can only be sufficiently offset by their ability to secure more than a single fee--and often many repeated fees--from their borrowers.

    In the proposal, the Bureau used the term ``re-borrow'' to refer to situations in which consumers either roll over a loan (which means they pay a fee to defer payment of the principal for an additional period of time), or take out a new loan within a short period time following a previous loan. Re-borrowing can occur concurrently with repayment in back-to-back transactions or can occur shortly thereafter. In the proposal, the Bureau stated its reasons for concluding that re-

    borrowing often indicates that the previous loan was beyond the consumer's ability to repay while meeting the consumer's other major financial obligations and basic living expenses. As discussed in more detail in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.6, the Bureau proposed and now concludes that it is appropriate to consider loans to be re-borrowings when the second loan is taken out within 30 days of the consumer being indebted on a previous loan. While the Bureau's 2014 Data Point used a 14-day period and the Small Business Review Panel Outline used a 60-day period, the Bureau used a 30-day period in its proposal to align the time frame with consumer expense cycles, which are typically a month in length. This duration was designed to account for the fact that where repaying a loan causes a shortfall, the effect is most likely to be experienced within a 30-day period in which monthly expenses for matters such as housing and other debts come due. The Bureau recognizes that some re-borrowing that occurs after a 30-day period may be attributable to the spillover effects of an unaffordable loan and that some re-borrowing that occurs within the 30-day period may be attributable to a new need that arises unrelated to the impact of repaying the short-term loan. Thus, while other periods could plausibly be used to determine when a follow-on loan constitutes re-

    borrowing, the Bureau believes that the 30-day period provides the most appropriate period for these purposes. In fact, the evidence presented below suggests that for any of these three potential time frames, though the percentage varies somewhat, the number of loans that occur as part of extended loan sequences of 10 loans or more is around half of all payday loans. Accordingly, this section, Market Concerns--

    Underwriting, uses a 30-day period to determine whether a loan is part of a loan sequence.

    The proposal noted that the majority of lending revenue earned by storefront payday lenders and lenders that make single-payment vehicle title loans comes from borrowers who re-borrow multiple times and become enmeshed in long loan sequences. Based on the Bureau's data analysis, approximately half of all payday loans are in sequences that contain 10 loans or more, depending on the time frame that is used to define the sequence.\498\ Looking just at loans made to borrowers who are paid weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-monthly, more than 20 percent of loans are in sequences that are 20 loans or longer. Similarly, the Bureau found that about half of all single-payment vehicle title loans are in sequences of 10 loans or more, and over two-thirds of them are in sequences of at least seven loans.\499\ The commenters did not take serious issue with this data analysis, and the Bureau finds these particular facts to be of great significance in assessing the justifications for regulatory measures that would address the consequent harms experienced by consumers.

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    \498\ This is true regardless of whether sequence is defined using either a 14-day, 30-day, or 60-day period to determine whether loans are within the same loan sequence. Using the 14-day period, just under half of these loans (47 percent) are in sequences that contain 10 loans or more. Using a longer period, more than half of these loans (30 days, 53 percent; 60 days, 59 percent) are in sequences that contain 10 loans or more.

    \499\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 14.

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    Commenters on all sides of the proposal did not seriously take issue with the account presented in the proposal of the basic business model in the marketplace for payday and single-payment vehicle title loans. They did have widely divergent views about whether they would characterize these facts as beneficial or pernicious, or what consequences they perceive as resulting from this business model. One credit union trade association stated its view that such lending takes advantage of consumers and exacerbates bad financial situations and thus it favored curbs on payday lending. Consumer groups and numerous individual borrowers echoed this view. Industry participants, other trade associations, and many other individual borrowers took the position, explicitly or implicitly, that the benefits experienced by successful users of these loans outweighed the costs incurred by those who engaged in repeat re-borrowing with consequent negative outcomes and collateral consequences.

    As discussed below, the Bureau has considered the comments submitted on

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    the proposal and continues to believe that both the short term and the single-payment structure of these loans contributes to the long loan sequences that borrowers take out. Various lender practices exacerbate the problem by marketing to borrowers who are particularly likely to wind up in long sequences of loans, by failing to screen out borrowers who are likely to wind up in long-term debt or to establish guardrails to avoid long-term indebtedness, and by actively encouraging borrowers to continue to re-borrow when their single-payment loans come due.

    1. Loan Structure

    The proposal described how the single-payment structure and short duration of these loans makes them difficult to repay. Within the space of a single income or expense cycle, a consumer with little to no savings cushion and who has borrowed to meet an unexpected expense or income shortfall, or who chronically runs short of funds, is unlikely to have the available cash needed to repay the full amount borrowed plus the finance charge on the loan when it is due and to cover other ongoing expenses. This is true for loans of a very short duration regardless of how the loan may be categorized. Loans of this type, as they exist in the market today, typically take the form of single-

    payment loans, including payday loans and vehicle title loans, though other types of credit products are possible.\500\ Because the focus of the Bureau's research has been on payday and vehicle title loans, the discussion in Market Concerns--Underwriting centers on those types of products.

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    \500\ In the past, a number of depository institutions have also offered deposit advance products. A small number of institutions still offer similar products. Like payday loans, deposit advances are typically structured as short-term loans. However, deposit advances do not have a pre-determined repayment date. Instead, deposit advance agreements typically stipulate that repayment will automatically be taken out of the borrower's next qualifying electronic deposit. Deposit advances are typically requested through online banking or over the phone, although at some institutions they may be requested at a branch. As described in more detail in the CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, the Bureau's research demonstrated similar borrowing patterns in both deposit advance products and payday loans. See CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 32-42.

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    The size of single-payment loan repayment amounts (measured as loan principal plus finance charges owed) relative to the borrower's next paycheck gives some sense of how difficult repayment may be. The Bureau's storefront payday loan data shows that the average borrower being paid on a bi-weekly basis would need to devote 37 percent of her bi-weekly paycheck to repaying the loan. Single-payment vehicle title borrowers face an even greater challenge. In the data analyzed by the Bureau, the median borrower's payment on a 30-day loan is equal to 49 percent of monthly income,\501\ and the Bureau finds it especially significant as indicating the severe challenges and potential for negative outcomes associated with these loans.

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    \501\ The data used for this calculation is described in CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending, at 10-15 and in CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings.

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    The commenters did not offer any data that disagreed with this analysis of how the loan structure works in practice. Industry commenters did assert, however, that the structure of these loans is not intended or designed as a means of exploiting consumers, but rather has evolved as needed to comply with the directives of State law and State regulation of this lending market. As a historical matter, this appears to be incorrect; indeed, another commenter is the founder of the company who helped to initiate the payday lending industry, W. Allan Jones. The comment notes that the ``traditional `payday loan' product'' was first developed by his company in 1993 in Tennessee and then became the basis for legislation and regulation that has spread to a majority of States, with various modifications and refinements. As noted above in part II.A, however, another large payday lender--QC Financial--began making payday loans in Kansas in 1992 under an existing provision of that state's existing consumer lending structure and that same year at least one State regulator formally held that deferred presentment activities constituted consumer lending subject to the State's consumer credit laws.\502\ Other accounts of the history of payday lending generally tend to reinforce these historical accounts that modern payday lending began emerging in the early 1990s as a variant of check-cashing stores whereby the check casher would cash and hold consumers' personal checks for a fee for several days--until payday--before cashing them.\503\ The laws of States, particularly those that had adopted the Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC) including Kansas and Colorado, permitted lenders to retain a minimum finance charge on loans ranging in the 1990's from about $15 to $25 per loan regardless of State rate caps, and payday lenders used those provisions to make payday loans. In other States, and later in UCCC States, more specific statutes were enacted to authorize and regulate what had become payday lending. No doubt the structure of such loan products over time is affected by and tends to conform to State laws and regulations, but the point here is that the key features of the loan structure, which tend to make these loans difficult to repay for a significant population of borrowers, are core to this financial product and are fairly consistent across time and geography.

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    \502\ QC Holdings, Inc., Registration Statement (Form S-1), at 1 (May 7, 2004); see, e.g., Laura Udis, Adm'r Colo. Dep't of Law, Unif. Consumer Credit Code, ``Check Cashing Entities Which Provide Funds In Return For A Post-Dated Check Or Similar Deferred Payment Arrangement And Which Impose A Check Cashing Charge Or Fee May Be Consumer Lenders Subject To The Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code,'' Administrative Interpretation No. 3.104-9201 (June 23, 1992) (on file).

    \503\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``A Short History of Payday Lending Law,'' (July 18, 2012), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2012/07/a-short-history-of-payday-lending-law.

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    Regardless of the historical background, however, one implication of the suggestion put forward by these commenters appears to be that the intended consequence of this loan product is to produce cycles of re-borrowing or extended loan sequences for many consumers that exceed the permissible short-term loan periods adopted under State law. The explanation seems to be that the actual borrowing needs of consumers extend beyond the permissible loan periods permitted by State law. If that is so, then the inherent nature of this mismatched product imposes large forecasting risks on the consumer, which may often lead to unexpected harms. And even if the claim instead is that the loan structure manages to co-exist with the formal constraints imposed by State law, this justification does little to minimize the risks and harms to the substantial population of consumers who find themselves trapped in extended loan sequences.

    2. Marketing

    The proposal also noted that the general positioning of short-term products in marketing and advertising materials as a solution to an immediate liquidity challenge attracts consumers facing these problems, encouraging them to focus on short-term relief rather than the likelihood that they are taking on a new longer-term debt. Lenders position the purpose of the loan as being for use ``until next payday'' or to ``tide over'' the consumer until she receives her next paycheck.\504\ These types of

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    product characterizations can encourage consumers to think of these loans as easy to repay, a fast solution to a temporary cash shortfall, and a short-term obligation, all of which lessen the risk in the consumer's mind that the loan will become a long-term debt cycle. Indeed, one study reporting consumer focus group feedback noted that some participants reported that the marketing made it seem like payday loans were ``a way to get a cash infusion without creating an additional bill.'' \505\

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    \504\ See, e.g., Speedy Cash, ``Payday Loan'', https://www.speedycash.com/payday-loans (last visited Sept. 24, 2017) (``A Speedy Cash payday loan may be a solution to help keep you afloat until your next pay day.''); Check Into Cash, ``Our Loan Process,'' https://checkintocash.com/payday-loans/ (last visited Sept. 24, 2017) (``A payday loan is a small dollar short-term advance used as an option to help a person with small, often unexpected expenses.''); Cash America, ``Cash Advance/Short-term Loans,'' http://www.cashamerica.com/LoanOptions/CashAdvances.aspx (last visited May 18, 2016) (noting that ``a short-term loan, payday advance or a deferred deposit transaction--can help tide you over until your next payday'' and that ``A single payday advance is typically for two to four weeks. However, borrowers often use these loans over a period of months, which can be expensive. Payday advances are not recommended as long-term financial solutions.''); Cmty. Fin. Servcs. Ass'n of Am., ``Is A Payday Advance Appropriate For You?,'' http://cfsaa.com/what-is-a-payday-advance/is-a-payday-advance-appropriate-for-you.aspx (last visited May 18, 2016) (The national trade association representing storefront payday lenders analogizes a payday loan to ``a cost-efficient `financial taxi' to get from one payday to another when a consumer is faced with a small, short-term cash need.'' The Web site elaborates that, ``Just as a taxi is a convenient and valuable service for short distance transportation, a payday advance is a convenient and reasonably-

    priced service that should be used to meet small-dollar, short-term needs. A taxi service, however, is not economical for long-distance travel, and a payday advance is inappropriate when used as a long-

    term credit solution for ongoing budget management.'').

    \505\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Payday Lending in America: How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans,'' at 22 (Report 2, 2013), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2013/02/19/how-borrowers-choose-and-repay-payday-loans (``To some focus group respondents, a payday loan, as marketed, did not seem as if it would add to their recurring debt, because it was a short-term loan to provide quick cash rather than an additional obligation. They were already in debt and struggling with regular expenses, and a payday loan seemed like a way to get a cash infusion without creating an additional bill.'').

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    As discussed in the proposal, in addition to presenting loans as short-term solutions, rather than potentially long-term obligations, lender advertising often focuses on how quickly and easily consumers can obtain a loan. An academic paper reviewing the advertisements of Texas storefront and online payday and vehicle title lenders found that the speed of getting a loan is the most frequently advertised feature in both online (100 percent) and storefront (50 percent) payday and title loans.\506\ Advertising that is focused on immediacy and speed capitalizes on the sense of urgency borrowers feel when facing a cash shortfall. Indeed, the names of many payday and vehicle title lenders include the words (in different spellings) ``speedy,'' ``cash,'' ``easy,'' and ``quick,'' thus emphasizing their rapid and simple loan funding.

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    \506\ Jim Hawkins, ``Using Advertisements to Diagnose Behavioral Market Failure in Payday Lending Markets,'' 51 Wake Forest L. Rev. 57, at 71 (2016). The next most advertised features in online content are simple application process and no credit check/bad credit OK (both at 97 percent). For storefront lenders, the ability to get a high loan amount was the second most highly advertised content.

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    All of the commenters generally agreed as a factual matter that the marketing and offering of such loans is typically marked by ease, speed, and convenience, which are touted as positive attributes of such loans that make them desirable credit products from the standpoint of potential borrowers. Yet industry participants and trade associations broadly disputed what they viewed as the Bureau's perspective on the potential implications of this marketing analysis, as suggesting that many borrowers lack knowledge or awareness about the nature, costs, and overall effects of these loans. Consumer advocates, on the other hand, contended that the manner in which these loans are being marketed affects the likelihood that borrowers will tend to view them as short-

    term obligations that will not have long-term effects on their overall financial position, which often leads consumers to experience the negative outcomes associated with unexpectedly ending up in extended loan sequences.

    3. Failure To Assess Ability To Repay

    As discussed in the proposal, the typical loan process for storefront payday, online payday, and single-payment vehicle title lenders generally involves gathering some basic information about borrowers before making a loan. Lenders normally do collect income information, although the information they collect may just be self-

    reported or ``stated'' income. Payday lenders collect information to ensure the borrower has a checking account, and title lenders need information about the vehicle that will provide the security for the loan. Some lenders access consumer reports prepared by specialty consumer reporting agencies and engage in sophisticated screening of applicants, and at least some lenders turn down the majority of applicants to whom they have not previously made loans.

    One of the primary purposes of this screening, however, is to avoid fraud and other ``first payment defaults,'' not to make any kind of determination that borrowers will be able to repay the loan without re-

    borrowing. These lenders generally do not obtain any information about the borrower's existing obligations or living expenses, which means that they cannot and do not prevent those with expenses chronically exceeding income, or those who have suffered from an income or expense shock from which they need substantially more time to recover than the term of the loan, from taking on additional obligations in the form of payday or similar loans. Thus, lenders' failure to assess the borrower's ability to repay the loan permits those consumers who are least able to repay the loans, and consequently are most likely to re-

    borrow, to obtain them.

    Lending to borrowers who cannot repay their loans would generally not be profitable in a traditional lending market, but as described elsewhere in this section, the factors that funnel consumers into cycles of repeat re-borrowing turn the traditional model on its head by creating incentives for lenders to actually want to make loans to borrowers who cannot afford to repay them when due if instead the consequence is that these borrowers are likely to find themselves re-

    borrowing repeatedly. Although industry stakeholders have argued that lenders making short-term loans already take steps to assess ``ability to repay'' and will always do so out of economic self-interest, the Bureau believes that this refers narrowly to whether the consumer will default up front on the loan, rather than whether the consumer has the capacity to repay the loan without having to re-borrow and while meeting other financial obligations and basic living expenses. The fact that lenders often do not perform additional underwriting when borrowers are rolling over a loan, or are returning to borrow again soon after repaying a prior loan, further shows that lenders do not see re-borrowing as a sign of borrowers' financial distress or as an outcome to be avoided. Rather, repeated re-borrowing may be perceived as a preferred outcome for the lender or even as an outcome that is a crucial underpinning to the business model in this loan market.

    For the most part, commenters did not take issue with the tenets of this factual description of the typical underwriting process for such loans, though some lenders contended that they do not intentionally seek out potential customers who are likely to have to re-borrow multiple times. As noted, however, this approach is consistent with the basic business model for such loans as described above. Industry

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    participants and trade associations did dispute one perceived implication of this discussion by asserting that long loan sequences, at least standing alone, cannot simply be assumed to be harmful or to demonstrate a consumer's inability to repay these loans, as many factors may bear on those outcomes. This point is discussed further below.

    4. Encouraging Long Loan Sequences

    In the proposal, the Bureau recounted its assessment of the market by noting that lenders attract borrowers in financial crisis, encourage them to think of the loans as a short-term solution, and fail to screen out those for whom the loans are likely to become a long-term debt cycle. After that, lenders then actively encourage borrowers to re-

    borrow and continue to be indebted rather than pay down or pay off their loans. Although storefront payday lenders typically take a post-

    dated check, which could be presented in a manner timed to coincide with deposit of the borrower's paycheck or government benefits, lenders usually encourage or even require borrowers to come back to the store to redeem the check and pay in cash.\507\ When the borrowers return, they are typically presented by lender employees with two salient options: Repay the loan in full, or simply pay a fee to roll over the loan (where permitted under State law). If the consumer does not return, some lenders may reach out to the customer but ultimately the lender will proceed to attempt to collect by cashing the check. On a $300 loan at a typical charge of $15 per $100 borrowed, the cost to defer the due date for another 14 days until the next payday is $45, while repaying in full would cost $345, which may leave the borrower with insufficient remaining income to cover expenses over the ensuing month and therefore tends to prompt re-borrowing. Requiring repayment in person gives staff at the stores the opportunity to frame for borrowers a choice between repaying in full or just paying the finance charge, which may be coupled with encouragement guiding them to choose the less immediately painful option of paying just the finance charge and rolling the loan over for another term. Based on its experience from supervising payday lenders over the past several years, the Bureau has observed that storefront employees are generally incentivized to maximize the store's loan volume and the data suggest that re-borrowing is a crucial means of achieving this goal.\508\

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    \507\ The Bureau believes from its experience in conducting examinations of storefront payday lenders and its outreach that cash repayments on payday and vehicle title loans are prevalent, even when borrowers provide post-dated checks or ACH authorizations for repayment. The Bureau has developed evidence from reviewing a number of payday lenders subject to supervisory examination in 2014 that the majority of them call each borrower a few days before payment is due to remind them to come to the store and pay the loan in cash. As an example, one storefront lender requires borrowers to come in to the store to repay. Its Web site states: ``All payday loans must be repaid with either cash or money order. Upon payment, we will return your original check to you.'' Others give borrowers ``appointment'' or ``reminder'' cards to return to make a payment in cash. In addition, vehicle title loans do not require a bank account as a condition of the loan, and borrowers without a checking account must return to storefront title locations to make payments.

    \508\ Most storefront lenders examined by the Bureau employ simple incentives that reward employees and store managers for loan volumes.

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    As laid out in the proposal, the Bureau's research shows that payday borrowers rarely re-borrow a smaller amount than the initial loan. Doing so would effectively amortize their loans by reducing the principal amount owed over time, thereby reducing their costs and the expected length of their loan sequences. Rather than encouraging borrowers to make amortizing payments that would reduce their financial exposure over time, lenders encourage borrowers to pay the minimum amount and re-borrow the full amount of the earlier loan, thereby contributing to this outcome. In fact, as discussed in the proposal, some online payday loans automatically roll the loan over at the end of its term unless the consumer takes affirmative action in advance of the due date, such as notifying the lender in writing at least three days before the due date. As some industry commenters noted, single-payment vehicle title borrowers who take out multiple loans in a sequence are more likely than payday borrowers who taken out multiple loans in a sequence to reduce the loan amount from the beginning to end of that sequence. After excluding for single loan sequences for which this analysis is not applicable, 37 percent of single-payment vehicle title loan sequences have declining loan amounts compared to just 15 percent of payday loan sequences. This greater likelihood of declining loan amounts for single-payment vehicle title loans compared to payday loans may also be influenced by the larger median size of title loans, which is $694, as compared to the median size of payday loans, which is $350. However, this still indicates that a large majority of single payment vehicle title loan borrowers have constant or increasing loan amounts over the course of a sequence. In addition, the Bureau's analysis shows that those single payment vehicle title loan borrowers who do reduce their loan amounts during a sequence only do so for a median of about $200, which is less than a third of the median loan amount of about $700.\509\ This may reflect the effects of certain State laws regulating vehicle title loans that require some reduction in loan size across a loan sequence.

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    \509\ See CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 18.

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    Lenders also actively encourage borrowers who they know are struggling to repay their loans to roll over and continue to borrow. In the Bureau's work over the past several years to monitor the operations and compliance of such lenders, including supervisory examinations and enforcement actions, the Bureau has found evidence that lenders maintain training materials that promote borrowing by struggling borrowers.\510\ In one enforcement action, the Bureau found that if a borrower did not repay in full or pay to roll over the loan on time, personnel would initiate collections. Store personnel or collectors would then offer new loans as a source of relief from the collections activities. This approach, which was understood to create a ``cycle of debt,'' was depicted graphically as part of the standard ``loan process'' in the company's new hire training manual. The Bureau is aware of similar practices in the single-payment vehicle title lending market, where store employees offer borrowers additional cash during courtesy calls and when calling about past-due accounts, and company training materials instruct employees to ``turn collections calls into sales calls'' and encourage delinquent borrowers to refinance to avoid default and repossession of their vehicles.

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    \510\ Press Release, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``CFPB Takes Action Against Ace Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt,'' (July 10, 2014), available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-ace-cash-express-for-pushing-payday-borrowers-into-cycle-of-debt/.

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    It also appears that lenders do little to affirmatively promote the use of ``off ramps'' or other alternative repayment options, even when those are required by law to be made available to borrowers. Such alternative repayment plans could help at least some borrowers avoid lengthy cycles of re-borrowing. Lenders that belong to one of the two national trade associations for storefront payday lenders have agreed to offer an extended payment plan to borrowers, but only if the borrower makes a request at least one day prior to the date on which the loan is due.\511\

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    (The second national trade association reports that its members provide an extended payment plan option, but details on that option are not available.) In addition, about 18 States require payday lenders to offer repayment plans to borrowers who encounter difficulty in repaying payday loans. The usage rate of these repayment plans varies widely, but in all cases it is relatively low.\512\ One explanation for the low take-up rate on these repayment plans may be that certain lenders disparage the plans or fail to promote their availability.\513\ By discouraging the use of repayment plans, lenders make it more likely that such consumers will instead re-borrow. The Bureau's supervisory examinations uncovered evidence that one or more payday lenders train their employees not to mention repayment plans until after the employees have offered renewals, and then only to mention repayment plans if borrowers specifically ask about them.

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    \511\ Cmty. Fin. Srvcs. Ass'n of Am., ``CFSA Member Best Practices,'' http://cfsaa.com/cfsa-member-best-practices.aspx (last visited May 18, 2016); Cmty. Fin. Srvcs. Ass'n of Am., ``What Is an Extended Payment Plan?,'' http://cfsaa.com/cfsa-member-best-practices/what-is-an-extended-payment-plan.aspx (last visited May 18, 2016); Fin. Srvc. Ctrs. of Am., Inc., ``FiSCA Best Practices,'' http://www.fisca.org/Content/NavigationMenu/AboutFISCA/CodesofConduct/default.htm (last visited May 18, 2016).

    \512\ Washington permits borrowers to request a no-cost installment repayment schedule prior to default. In 2014, 14 percent of payday loans were converted to installment loans. Wash. Dep't of Fin. Insts., ``2014 Payday Lending Report,'' at 7 (2014), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2014-payday-lending-report.pdf Illinois allows payday loan borrowers to request a repayment plan with 26 days after default. Between 2006 and 2013, the total number of repayment plans requested was less than 1 percent of the total number of loans made in the same period. Ill. Dep't. of Fin. & Prof. Reg., ``Illinois Trends Report All Consumer Loan Products Through December 2015,'' at 19 (Apr. 14, 2016), available at http://www.idfpr.com/DFI/CCD/pdfs/IL_Trends_Report%202015-%20FINAL.pdf?ActID=1204&ChapterID=20). In Colorado, in 2009, 21 percent of eligible loans were converted to repayment plans before statutory changes repealed the repayment plan. State of Colorado, Dep't of Law, Office of the Att'y Gen., ``2009 Deferred Deposit Lenders Annual Report,'' at 2 (2009) (hereinafter Colorado 2009 Deferred Deposit Lenders Annual Report), available at http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/contentuploads/cp/ConsumerCreditUnit/UCCC/AnnualReportComposites/2009_ddl_composite.pdf. In Utah, six percent of borrowers entered into an extended payment plan. G. Edward Leary, Comm'r of Fin. Insts. for the State of Utah to Hon. Gary R. Herbert, Governor, and the Legislature, (Report of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions for the Period July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014), at 135, (Oct. 2, 2014) available at http://dfi.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2015/06/Annual1.pdf. Florida law also requires lenders to extend the loan term on the outstanding loan by sixty days at no additional cost for borrowers who indicate that they are unable to repay the loan when due and agree to attend credit counseling. Although 84 percent of loans were made to borrowers with seven or more loans in 2014, fewer than 0.5 percent of all loans were granted a cost-free term extension. See Brandon Coleman & Delvin Davis, ``Perfect Storm: Payday Lenders Harm Florida Consumer Despite State Law,'' at 4 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2016), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/nodes/files/research-publication/crl_perfect_storm_florida_mar2016_0.pdf.

    \513\ Colorado's 2009 annual report of payday loan activity noted lenders' self-reporting of practices to restrict borrowers from obtaining the number of loans needed to be eligible for a repayment plan or imposing cooling-off periods on borrowers who elect to take a repayment plan. Colorado 2009 Deferred Deposit Lenders Annual Report. This evidence was from Colorado under the state's 2007 statute which required lenders to offer borrowers a no-

    cost repayment plan after the third balloon loan. The law was changed in 2010 to prohibit balloon loans, as discussed in part II.

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    In general, most of the commenters did not take issue with this factual account of the mechanics or incentives that lead to a high incidence of rolling over such loans, and much of what they said tended to confirm it. In particular, industry commenters acknowledged that incentive programs for their employees based on net revenue are widespread in the industry. Such programs are not illegal, of course, but given the structure of these loans as described above, this suggests that employees are being incentivized to encourage re-

    borrowing and extended loan sequences by having borrowers roll their loans over repeatedly.

    Industry participants, trade associations, and some individual users of such loans did argue, however, about the implications of this analysis. One of their claims is that many consumers have an actual borrowing need that extends beyond the loan period permitted under State law, and thus repeated re-borrowing may be a means of synchronizing the consumer's borrowing needs to the specific contours of the loan product. In particular, they contended that re-borrowing may be beneficial to consumers as part of longer-term strategies around income smoothing or debt management, a point that is discussed further below.

    5. Payment Mechanisms and Vehicle Title

    The proposal noted that where lenders can collect payments through post-dated checks or ACH authorizations, or obtain security interests in borrowers' vehicles, these mechanisms also can be used to encourage borrowers to re-borrow, as a way to avoid what otherwise could be negative consequences if the lender were to cash the check or repossess the vehicle. For example, consumers may feel significantly increased pressure to return to a storefront to roll over a payday or vehicle title loan that includes such features. They may do so rather than risk incurring new fees in connection with an attempt to deposit the consumer's post-dated check, such as an overdraft or NSF fee from the bank and a returned-item fee from the lender if the check were to bounce or risk suffering the repossession of their vehicle. The pressure can be especially acute when the lender obtains security in the borrower's vehicle.

    The proposal also noted that in cases where consumers do ultimately default on their loans, and these mechanisms are at last effectuated, they often magnify the total harm that consumers suffer from losing their access to essential transportation. Consumers often will have additional account and lender fees assessed against them, and some will end up having their bank accounts closed. When this occurs, they will have to bear the many attendant costs of becoming stranded outside the banking system, which include greater inconvenience, higher costs, reduced safety of their funds, and the loss of the other advantages of a standard banking relationship.

    These harms are very real for many consumers. For example, as discussed in more detail below in Market Concerns--Payments, the Bureau's research has found that 36 percent of borrowers who took out online payday or payday installment loans and had at least one failed payment during an eighteen-month period had their checking accounts closed by the bank by the end of that period, a rate that is four times greater than the closure rate for accounts that only had NSFs from non-

    payday transactions.\514\ For accounts with failed online payday loan transactions, account closures typically occur within 90 days of the last observed online payday loan transaction; in fact, 74 percent of account closures in these situations occur within 90 days of the first NSF return triggered by an online payday or payday installment lender.\515\ This suggests that the online loan played a role in the closure of the account, or that payment attempts failed because the account was already headed towards closure, or both.\516\

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    \514\ CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 12.

    \515\ CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 23.

    \516\ See also Complaint at 14, Baptiste v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, No. 12-04889 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2012) (alleging plaintiff's bank account was closed with a negative balance of $641.95, which consisted entirely of bank's fees triggered by the payday lenders' payment attempts); id. at 20-21 (alleging plaintiff's bank account was closed with a negative balance of $1,784.50, which consisted entirely of banks fees triggered by the payday lender's payment attempts and payments provided to the lenders through overdraft, and that plaintiff was subsequently turned down from opening a new checking account at another bank because of a negative ChexSystems report stemming from the account closure).

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    Page 54565

    In general, the commenters did not challenge the Bureau's factual account of how these payment mechanisms can lead to these collateral consequences that harm consumers. Industry commenters did disagree, however, with the premise that these harms were caused by the use of covered short-term loans. Some disagreed about the overall magnitude of these harms, stating that there is no evidence that covered short-term loans actually cause account closures or NSF fees, as stated in the proposal, and arguing that the Bureau overstated the extent to which consumers who default are subjected to NSF fees or fees resulting from bounced checks. But they did not present any convincing data to refute what the Bureau had observed from its own research and experience, and the assertion that online loans may have performed more poorly than storefront loans in these respects was not persuasive. Although the Bureau did not purport to find that the evidence in its data was determinative as to causation, the relationship between the consumer experience on such loans and the borrower outcomes was strongly reinforced by the data and logical as to the connection between them.

    c. Patterns of Lending and Extended Loan Sequences

    The Bureau's proposal described how borrower characteristics, the circumstances of borrowing, the structure of the short-term loans, and the practices of the lenders together lead to dramatic negative outcomes for many payday and single-payment vehicle title borrowers. There is strong evidence that a meaningful share of borrowers who take out payday and single-payment vehicle title loans end up with very long sequences of loans, and the loans made to borrowers with these negative outcomes make up a majority of all the loans made by these lenders.\517\

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    \517\ In addition to the array of empirical evidence demonstrating this finding, industry stakeholders themselves have expressly or implicitly acknowledged the dependency of most storefront payday lenders' business models on repeat borrowing. A June 20, 2013 letter to the Bureau from an attorney for a national trade association representing storefront payday lenders asserted that, ``in any large, mature payday loan portfolio, loans to repeat borrowers generally constitute between 70 and 90 percent of the portfolio, and for some lenders, even more,'' and that ``the borrowers most likely to roll over a payday loan are, first, those who have already done so, and second, those who have had un-rolled-

    over loans in the immediately preceding loan period.'' Letter from Hilary B. Miller to Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (June 20, 2013), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_cfsa-information-quality-act-petition-to-CFPB.pdf. The letter asserted challenges under the Information Quality Act to the Bureau's published White Paper (2013); see also Letter from Ron Borzekowski & B. Corey Stone, Jr., Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., to Hilary B. Miller (Aug. 19, 2013), available at https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwjEzu_EuMDWAhUGYiYKHY00ASEQFggvMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.consumerfinance.gov%2Ff%2F201308_cfpb_cfsa-response.pdf&usg= AFQjCNF8PpFfXq_pt-lFOJtot1tRX_Or6A (Bureau's response to the challenge).

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    Long loan sequences lead to very high total costs of borrowing. Each single-payment loan carries the same cost as the initial loan that the borrower took out. For a storefront borrower who takes out the average-sized payday loan of $350 with a typical fee of $15 per $100, each re-borrowing by rolling over the loan means paying additional fees of $52.50. After just three re-borrowings, the borrower will have paid more than $150 simply to defer payment of the original principal amount by an additional period ranging from six weeks to three months.

    As noted in the proposal, the cost of re-borrowing for title borrowers is even more dramatic, given the higher price and larger size of those loans. The Bureau's data indicates that the median loan size for single-payment vehicle title loans is $694. One study found that the most common rate charged on the typical 30-day title loan is $25 per $100 borrowed, which is a common State limit and equates to an APR of 300 percent.\518\ A typical instance of re-borrowing thus means that the consumer pays a fee of around $175. After just three re-borrowings, a consumer will typically have paid about $525 simply to defer payment of the original principal amount by three months.

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    \518\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrower Experiences,'' at 11, 34 n.15 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2015/03/

    autotitleloansreport.pdf.

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    The proposal cited evidence for the prevalence of long sequences of payday and title loans, which comes from the Bureau's own work, from analysis by independent researchers and analysts commissioned by industry, and from statements by industry stakeholders. The Bureau has published several analyses of storefront payday loan borrowing.\519\ Two of these have focused on the length of loan sequences that borrowers take out. In these publications, the Bureau defined a loan sequence as a series of loans where each loan was taken out either on the day the prior loan was repaid or within some number of days from when the loan was repaid. The Bureau's 2014 Data Point used a 14-day window to define a sequence of loans. Those data have been further refined in the CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings and shows that when a borrower who is not currently in a loan sequence takes out a payday loan, borrowers wind up taking out at least four loans in a row before repaying 43 percent of the time, take out at least seven loans in a row before repaying 27 percent of the time, and take out at least 10 loans in a row before repaying 19 percent of the time.\520\ In the CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, the Bureau re-analyzed the data using 30-day and 60-day definitions of sequences. The results are similar, although using longer windows leads to longer sequences of more loans. Using the 30-day definition of a sequence, 50 percent of new loan sequences contain at least four loans, 33 percent of sequences contain at least seven loans, and 24 percent of sequences contain at least 10 loans.\521\ Borrowers who take out a fourth loan in a sequence have a 66 percent likelihood of taking out at least three more loans, for a total sequence length of seven loans. And such borrowers have a 48 percent likelihood of taking out at least six more loans, for a total sequence length of 10 loans.\522\

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    \519\ See generally CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending; CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper.

    \520\ See CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings.

    \521\ CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings. In proposed Sec. 1041.6 the Bureau proposed some limitations on loans made within a sequence, and in proposed Sec. 1041.2(a)(12), the Bureau proposed to define a sequence to include loans made within 30 days of one another. The Bureau believes that this is a more appropriate definition of sequence than using either a shorter or longer time horizon for the reasons set forth in the section-by-section analyses of proposed Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(12) and 1041.6. For these same reasons, the Bureau believes that the findings contained in the CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings and cited in text provide the most accurate quantification of the degree of harm resulting from cycles of indebtedness.

    \522\ These figures are calculated simply by taking the share of sequences that are at least seven (or ten) loans long and diving by the share of sequences that are at least four loans long.

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    These findings are mirrored in other analyses. During the SBREFA process, one participant submitted an analysis prepared by Charles River Associates (CRA) of loan data from several small storefront payday lenders.\523\ Using a 60-day sequence as its definition, CRA found patterns of borrowing very similar to those that the Bureau had found. Compared to the Bureau's results using a 60-day sequence definition, in the

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    CRA analysis there were more loans where the borrower defaulted on the first loan or repaid without re-borrowing (roughly 44 percent versus 25 percent), and fewer loans that had 11 or more loans in the sequence, but otherwise the patterns were nearly identical.\524\

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    \523\ Arthur Baines et al., ``Economic Impact on Small Lenders of the Payday Lending Rules Under Consideration by the CFPB,'' Charles River Associates, (2015), available at http://www.crai.com/publication/economic-impact-small-lenders-payday-lending-rules-under-consideration-cfpb. The CRA analysis states that it used the same methodology as the Bureau.

    \524\ See generally CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings.

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    Similarly, in an analysis funded by an industry research organization, researchers found a mean sequence length, using a 30-day sequence definition, of nearly seven loans.\525\ This is slightly higher than the mean 30-day sequence length in the Bureau's analysis (5.9 loans).

    Analysis of a multi-lender, multi-year dataset by a research group affiliated with a specialty consumer reporting agency found that over a period of approximately four years the average borrower had at least one sequence of nine loans; that 25 percent of borrowers had at least one loan sequence of 11 loans; and that 10 percent of borrowers had at least one loan sequence of 22 loans.\526\ Looking at these same borrowers for a period of 11 months--one month longer than the duration analyzed by the Bureau--the researchers found that on average the longest sequence these borrowers experienced over the 11 months was 5.3 loans, that 25 percent of borrowers had a sequence of at least seven loans, and that 10 percent of borrowers had a sequence of at least 12 loans.\527\ This research group also identified a core of users with extremely persistent borrowing, and found that 30 percent of borrowers who took out a loan in the first month of the four-year period also took out a loan in the last month.\528\ The median time in debt for this group of extremely persistent borrowers was over 1,000 days, which is more than half of the four-year period. The median borrower in this group of extremely persistent borrowers had at least one loan sequence of 23 loans long or longer (which was nearly two years for borrowers who were paid monthly). Perhaps most notable, almost one out of ten members of this research group (nine percent) borrowed continuously for the entire four-year period.\529\

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    \525\ Marc Anthony Fusaro & Patricia J. Cirillo, ``Do Payday Loans Trap Consumers in a Cycle of Debt?,'' at 23 (2011), available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1960776.

    \526\ nonPrime 101, ``Report 7B: Searching for Harm in Storefront Payday Lending, A Critical Analysis of the CFPB's `Debt Trap' Data,'' at 60 tbl. C-1 (2016), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Report-7-B-Searching-for-Harm-in-Storefront-Payday-Lending-nonPrime101.pdf. Sequences are defined based on the borrower pay period, with a loan taken out before a pay period has elapsed since the last loan was repaid being considered part of the same loan sequence.

    \527\ nonPrime 101, ``Report 7B: Searching for Harm in Storefront Payday Lending, A Critical Analysis of the CFPB's `Debt Trap' Data,'' at 60 tbl. C-1 (2016), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Report-7-B-Searching-for-Harm-in-Storefront-Payday-Lending-nonPrime101.pdf. The researchers were able to link borrowers across the five lenders in their dataset and include within a sequence loans taking out from different lenders. Following borrowers across multiple lenders did not materially increase the average length of the longest sequence but did increase the length of sequences for the top decile by one to two loans. Compare id. at tbl. C-2 with tbl. C-1. The author of the report focus on loan sequences where a borrower pays more in fees than the principal amount of the loan as sequences that cause consumer harm. The Bureau does not believe that this is the correct metric for determining whether a borrower has suffered harm.

    \528\ nonprime 101, ``Report 7C: A Balanced View of Storefront Payday Lending,'' (2016), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Report-7-C-A-Balanced-View-of-Storefront-Payday-Borrowing-Patterns-3https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Report-7-C-A-Balanced-View-of-Storefront-Payday-Borrowing-Patterns-3.28.pdf.28.pdf.

    \529\ nonprime 101, ``Report 7C: A Balanced View of Storefront Payday Lending,'' at tbl. 2 (2016), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Report-7-C-A-Balanced-View-of-Storefront-Payday-Borrowing-Patterns-3https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Report-7-C-A-Balanced-View-of-Storefront-Payday-Borrowing-Patterns-3.28.pdf.28.pdf. A study of borrowers in Florida claims that after the first year, over 20 percent of borrowers never use payday loans again and 50 percent of borrowers no longer use payday loans after two years. Floridians for Financial Choice, ``The Florida Model: Baseless and Biased Attacks are Dangerously Wrong on Florida Payday Lending,'' at 5 (2016), available at http://financialchoicefl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FloridaModelReport.pdf.

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    In the proposal, the Bureau also presented its analysis of single-

    payment vehicle title loans according to the same basic methodology.\530\ Using a 30-day definition of loan sequences, the Bureau found that short-term single-payment vehicle title loans had loan sequences that were similar to payday loans. More than half (56 percent) of these sequences contained at least four loans; 36 percent contained seven or more loans; and 23 percent had 10 or more loans. The Bureau's analysis found that title borrowers were less likely than those using payday loans to repay a loan without re-borrowing or defaulting. Only 12 percent of single-payment vehicle title loan sequences consisted of a single loan that was repaid without subsequent re-borrowing, compared to 22 percent of payday loan sequences.\531\ Other sources on title lending are more limited than for payday lending, but are generally consistent. For instance, the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions publishes a biennial report on 30-

    day single-payment vehicle title loans. The most recent report shows very similar results to those the Bureau found in its research, with 66 percent of borrowers taking out four or more loans in row, 40 percent taking out more than seven loans in a row, and 24 percent taking out more than 10 loans in a row.\532\

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    \530\ See generally CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Report.

    \531\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 11; CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 121.

    \532\ Letter from Greg Gonzales, Comm'r, Tennessee Dep't of Fin. Insts., to Hon. Bill Haslam, Governor and Hon. Members of the 109th General Assembly, at 8 (Apr. 12, 2016) (Report on the Title Pledge Industry), available at http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/tdfi/attachments/Title_Pledge_Report_2016_Final_Draft_Apr_6_2016.pdf.

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    Some commenters noted data showing that vehicle title borrowers use re-borrowing to self-amortize their principal balance to a greater extent than payday borrowers do, which they suggested is evidence that title re-borrowing is not injurious. As noted previously, while it is true that more title borrowers in multi-loan sequences have declining loan balances than do payday borrowers in multi-loan sequences, this is likely the result of title loans starting out at much larger amounts. More salient is the fact that 63 percent of multi-loan sequences of title loans are for principal amounts that either remain unchanged or actually increase during the sequence, and that even those title loan sequences that do have a decline in loan amount over time only have a median decline of about $200 from beginning to end of the sequence, which is less than one-third of the average total amount of these loans. And the default rate remains high even for amortizing multi-loan sequences of title loans, at 22 percent, which is slightly higher than the default rate for payday loans (20 percent), even though the latter amortize less often. All of this suggests that even if title borrowers can somewhat reduce the larger principal amount of their loans over time, it remains difficult to succeed in digging themselves out of the debts they have incurred with these loans.

    In addition to direct measures of the length of loan sequences, the cumulative number of loans that borrowers take out provides ample indirect evidence that they are often getting stuck in a long-term debt cycle. The Bureau has measured total borrowing by payday borrowers in two ways. In one study, the Bureau took a snapshot of borrowers in lenders' portfolios at a point in time (measured as borrowing in a particular month) and tracked them for an additional 11 months (for a total of 12 months) to assess overall loan use. This study

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    found that the median borrowing level was 10 loans over the course of a year, and more than half of the borrowers had loans outstanding for more than half of the year.\533\ In another study, the Bureau measured the total number of loans taken out by borrowers beginning new loan sequences. It found that these borrowers had lower total borrowing than borrowers who may have been mid-sequence at the beginning of the period, but the median number of loans for the new borrowers was six loans over a slightly shorter (11-month) period.\534\ Research by others finds similar results, with average or median borrowing, using various data sources and various samples, of six to 13 loans per year.\535\

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    \533\ CFPB Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products White Paper, at 23.

    \534\ CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending, at 10-15.

    \535\ Paige Marta Skiba and Jeremy Tobacman, ``Payday Loans, Uncertainty, and Discounting: Explaining Patterns of Borrowing, Repayment, and Default,'' (Vand. L. and Econ., Research Paper No. 08-33, 2008). (finding an average of 5.5 loans per year for payday borrowers). A study of Oklahoma payday borrowing found an average of eight loans per year. Uriah King and Leslie Parrish, ``Payday Loans, Inc.: Short on Credit, Long on Debt,'' at 1 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2011), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/payday-loan-inc.pdf; Michael A. Stegman, Payday Lending, 21 J. of Econ. Perspectives 169, at 176 (2007) (finding a median of 8-12 loans per year).

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    One commenter provided further data on the length of time consumers use payday loans, which gave more particulars about multi-year indebtedness in States with payday lending, such as South Carolina and Florida. The Florida data showed that over 40 percent of all consumers who took out one or more payday loans in 2012 continued to use the product three years later, and about a third of all consumers who took one or more payday loans in 2012 continued to use the product five years later. The South Carolina data provided similar information, but reported findings for consumers by borrowing intensity. It tended to show that those with the greatest intensity of borrowing were the least likely to end the borrowing relationship over a three-year period. Separately, a report on payday lending market trends by a specialty consumer reporting agency finds that over half of all loans are made to existing customers rather than consumers who have not used payday loans before.\536\ This report concludes that ``even though new customers are critical, existing customers are the most productive.'' \537\

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    \536\ See generally Clarity Services, Inc., ``2017 Subprime Lending Trends: Insights into Consumers & the Industry,'' (2017), available at https://www.clarityservices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Subprime-Lending-Report-2017-Clarity-Services-3.28.17.pdf.

    \537\ Clarity Services, Inc., ``2017 Subprime Lending Trends: Insights into Consumers & the Industry,'' at 8 (2017), available at https://www.clarityservices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Subprime-Lending-Report-2017-Clarity-Services-3.28.17.pdf.

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    The proposal also noted that, given differences in the regulatory context and the overall nature of the market, less information is available about online lending than storefront lending. Borrowers who take out payday loans online are likely to change lenders more frequently than storefront borrowers, so that absent comprehensive data that allows borrowing patterns to be tracked across all lenders, measuring the duration of loan sequences becomes much more challenging. The limited information that is available suggests that online borrowers take out fewer loans than storefront borrowers, but that borrowing is highly likely to be under-counted. A report commissioned by an online lender trade association, using data from three online lenders making single-payment payday loans, reported an average loan length of 20 days and an average of 73 days in debt per year.\538\ The report averages the medians of the three lenders' data, which makes interpretation of these values difficult; still, these findings indicate that borrowers take out three to four loans per year at these lenders.

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    \538\ G. Michael Flores, ``The State of Online Short-Term Lending, Second Annual Statistical Analysis Report,'' Bretton-Woods, Inc., at 5 (Feb. 28, 2014), available at http://onlinelendersalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015-Bretton-Woods-Online-Lending-Study-FINAL.pdf (commissioned by the Online Lenders Alliance).

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    Additional analysis is available based on the records of a specialty consumer reporting agency. The records show similar loans per borrower, 2.9, but over a multi-year period.\539\ These loans, however, are not primarily single-payment payday loans. A small number are installment loans, while most are ``hybrid'' loans with a typical duration of roughly four pay cycles. In addition, this statistic likely understates usage because online lenders may not report all of the loans they make, and some may only report the first loan they make to a borrower. Borrowers may also be more likely to change lenders online and, as many lenders do not report to the specialty consumer reporting agency that provided the data for the analysis, when borrowers change lenders their subsequent loans often may not be in the data analyzed.

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    \539\ nonPrime 101, Report 7-A, ``How Persistent in the Borrower-Lender Relationship in Payday Lending?'', at 6 tbl. 1 (2015) available at https://www.nonprime101.com/how-persistent-is-the-borrower-lender-relationship-in-payday-lending-2/.

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    Although many industry commenters disputed the significance of these findings, they offered little evidence that was inconsistent with the data presented by the Bureau. One commenter disputed the accuracy of the Bureau's statement that 69 percent of payday loan sequences which end in default are multi-loan sequences and offered its own analysis based on its own customer data, which presented somewhat lower numbers but was largely consistent with the data presented by the Bureau. Still other commenters cited a petition that purported to show data errors relating to the Bureau's White Paper on payday loans and deposit advance products that was used to draw conclusions about the prevalence of re-borrowing, which they argued was based on an unrepresentative sample weighted heavily toward repeat users. The Bureau has addressed this criticism previously, and explained that the methodology used in the White Paper, which took a snapshot of borrowers at the beginning of a twelve-month observation period and followed those borrowers over the ensuing eleven months, is an appropriate method of assessing borrowing intensity even though it is true that any such snapshot will be disproportionately composed of repeat borrowers because they comprise the bulk of payday lenders' business. At the same time, the Bureau has conducted an alternative analysis which tracks the borrowing experience of fresh borrowers and it is that analysis on which the Bureau is principally relying here for covered short-term loans.

    Another study was cited to suggest that cost does not drive the cycle of debt because it found that borrowers who were given no-fee loans had re-borrowing rates that were comparable to those who were given loans with normal fees.\540\ The upshot of this study, however, tended to show that the single-payment loan structure was instead a sufficient driver of the debt cycle, even without regard to the size of the fees that were charged. In fact, this study actually tends to refute the claim made elsewhere by industry commenters that the Bureau is trying to evade the statutory prohibition on imposing a usury cap by addressing price, since price alone does not seem to drive the cycle of debt that is a primary source of the harms resulting from these loans--

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    rather, it is the single-payment loan structure that does so.

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    \540\ Marc A. Fusaro and Patricia J. Cirillo, ``Do Payday Loans Trap Consumers in a Cycle of Debt?'' (Ark. Tech U. & Cypress Research Group, 2011).

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    Many industry participants and trade associations contended that, standing alone, multiple loan sequences cannot be presumed to be harmful to consumers. In particular, one trade association stated that where an income or expense shock cannot be resolved at once, re-

    borrowing in extended loan sequences can be an effective longer-term strategy of income smoothing or debt management until the consumer's financial situation improves. Thus re-borrowing cannot be presumed to be necessarily irrational or harmful, depending on the circumstances. This commenter also cited studies that examined the credit scores of payday borrowers and reported finding better outcomes for longer-term borrowers than for those who are limited to shorter loan durations, and also that reported finding better outcomes for consumers in States with less restrictive payday lending laws than for those in States with more restrictive laws. These issues are important and they are discussed further in Sec. 1041.4 below.

    A coalition of consumer groups was in agreement as a factual matter that many consumers of payday and single-payment vehicle title loans end up in extended loan sequences, and many individual commenters described their own personal experiences and perspectives on this point. They observed that borrowers in these situations do in fact suffer many if not all of the harmful collateral consequences described in the proposal, which merely compound their existing financial difficulties and leave them worse off than they were before they took out such loans. Once again, however, putting aside the starkly different conclusions that commenters were drawing from the data, the basic accuracy of the data presented in the proposal on the patterns of lending and extended loan sequences was generally acknowledged. The arguments for and against the validity of their respective conclusions are considered further in the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.4 below.

    d. Consumer Expectations and Understanding of Loan Sequences

    As discussed in the proposal, extended sequences of loans raise tangible concerns about the market for short-term loans. These concerns are exacerbated by the empirical evidence on consumer understanding of such loans. The available evidence indicates that many of the borrowers who take out long sequences of payday loans and single-payment vehicle title loans do not anticipate at the outset that they will end up experiencing those long sequences.

    Measuring consumers' expectations about re-borrowing is inherently challenging. When answering survey questions about loan repayment, there is the risk that borrowers may conflate repaying an individual loan with completing an extended sequence of borrowing. Asking borrowers retrospective questions about their expectations at the time they started borrowing is likely to suffer from recall problems, as people have difficulty remembering what they expected at some time in the past. The recall problem is likely to be compounded by respondents tending to want to avoid admitting that they have made a mistake. Asking about expectations for future borrowing may also be imperfect, as some consumers may not be thinking explicitly about how many times they will roll a loan over when taking out their first loan. Merely asking the question may cause people to think about it and focus on it more than they otherwise would have.

    Two studies discussed in the proposal have asked payday and vehicle title borrowers at the time they took out their loans about their expectations about re-borrowing, either the behavior of the average borrower or their own borrowing, and compared their responses with actual repayment behavior of the overall borrower population.\541\ One 2009 survey of payday borrowers found that over 40 percent of borrowers thought that the average borrower would have a loan outstanding for only two weeks, and another 25 percent said four weeks. Translating weeks into loans, the four-week response likely reflects borrowers who believe the average number of loans that a borrower will take out before repaying is either one loan or two loans, depending on how many respondents were paid bi-weekly as opposed to monthly. The report did not provide data on actual re-borrowing, but based on analysis performed by the Bureau and others, these results suggest that respondents were, on average, somewhat optimistic about re-borrowing behavior.\542\ However, it is difficult to be certain that some survey respondents did not conflate the time during which the loans are outstanding with the contract term of individual loans. This may be so because the researchers asked borrowers, ``What's your best guess of how long it takes the average person to pay back in full a $300 payday loan?'' Some borrowers may have interpreted this question to refer to the specific loan being taken out, rather than subsequent rollovers. People's beliefs about their own re-borrowing behavior could also vary from their beliefs about average borrowing behavior by others. This study also did not specifically distinguish other borrowers from the subset of borrowers who end up in extended loan sequences.

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    \541\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013 (2014); Marianne Bertrand and Adair Morse, ``Information Disclosure, Cognitive Biases and Payday Borrowing,'' 66 J. of Fin. 1865 (2011).

    \542\ Marianne Bertrand and Adair Morse, ``Information Disclosure, Cognitive Biases and Payday Borrowing,'' 66 J. of Fin. 1865 (2011). Based on the Bureau's analysis, approximately 50-55 percent of loan sequences, measured using a 14-day sequence definition, end after one or two loans, including sequences that end in default. See also CFPB Data Point: Payday Lending, at 11; CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at chapter 5. Using a relatively short re-borrowing period seems more likely to match how respondents interpret the survey question, but that is speculative. Translating loans to weeks is complicated by the fact that loan terms vary depending on borrowers' pay frequency; four weeks is two loans for a borrower paid bi-weekly, but only one loan for a borrower paid monthly.

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    Another study discussed in the proposal was a study of single-

    payment vehicle title borrowers, where researchers surveyed borrowers about their expectations about how long it would take to repay the loan.\543\ The report did not have data on borrowing, but compared the responses with the distribution of repayment times reported by the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions. The report found that the entire population of borrowers was slightly optimistic, on average, in their predictions.\544\

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    \543\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, at 1029-1030 (2014).

    \544\ As noted above, the Bureau found that the re-borrowing patterns in data analyzed by the Bureau are very similar to those reported by the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions.

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    The two studies just described compared borrowers' predictions of average borrowing with overall average borrowing levels, which is only informative about how accurate borrowers' predictions are about the average. By contrast, a 2014 study by Professor Ronald Mann,\545\ which was discussed in the proposal, did attempt to survey borrowers at the point at which they were borrowing. This survey asked them about their expectations for repaying their loans and compared their responses with their subsequent actual borrowing behavior, using loan records to measure how accurate their predictions were. The results described

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    in the report, combined with subsequent analysis that Professor Mann shared with Bureau staff, show the following: \546\

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    \545\ Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105 (2013).

    \546\ The Bureau notes that Professor Mann draws different interpretations from his analysis than does the Bureau in certain instances, as explained below, and industry stakeholders, including SERs, have cited Mann's study as support for their criticism of the Small Business Review Panel Outline. Much of this criticism is based on Professor Mann's finding that ``about 60 percent of borrowers accurately predict how long it will take them finally to repay their payday loans.'' Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 105 (2013). The Bureau notes, however, that this was largely driven by the fact that many borrowers predicted that they would not remain in debt for longer than one or two loans, and in fact this prediction was accurate for many such borrowers. But it did not address the much larger forecasting problems experienced by other borrowers, particularly those who ended up in extended loan sequences.

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    First, and most significant, many fewer borrowers expected to experience long sequences of loans than actually did experience long sequences. Focusing on the borrowers who ended up borrowing for more than 150 days, it is notable that none predicted they would be in debt for even 100 days.\547\ And of those who ended up borrowing for more than 100 days, only a very small fraction predicted that outcome.\548\ Indeed, the vast majority of those who borrowed for more than 100 days actually expected to borrow for less than 50 days.\549\ Borrowers who experienced long sequences of loans do not appear to have expected those long sequences when they made their initial borrowing decision; in fact they had not predicted that their sequences would be longer than the average predicted by borrowers overall. And while some borrowers did expect long sequences, those borrowers were more likely to err in their predictions; as Mann noted, ``both the likelihood of unexpectedly late payment and the proportionate size of the error increase substantially with the length of the borrower's prediction.'' \550\

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    \547\ See Attachment to Email from Ronald Mann, Professor, Columbia Law School, to Jialan Wang & Jesse Leary, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (Sept. 24, 2013, 1:32 EDT), at 17. Correspondence between Bureau staff and Professor Mann was included as related material in the public docket supporting the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register on July 22, 2016.

    \548\ See Attachment to Email from Ronald Mann, Professor, Columbia Law School, to Jialan Wang & Jesse Leary, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (Sept. 24, 2013, 1:32 EDT), at 17.

    \549\ See Attachment to Email from Ronald Mann, Professor, Columbia Law School, to Jialan Wang & Jesse Leary, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (Sept. 24, 2013, 1:32 EDT), at 17. The same point can be made from another angle as well. Only 10 percent of borrowers expected to be in debt for more than 70 days (five two-

    week loans), and only 5 percent expected to be in debt for more than 110 days (roughly eight two-week loans), yet the actual numbers were substantially higher. See Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 122 (2013) Indeed, approximately 12 percent of borrowers still remained in debt after 200 days (14 two-week loans). See comment letter submitted by Prof. Ronald Mann, at 2.

    \550\ Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 127 (2013).

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    Second, Mann's analysis suggests that past borrowing experience is not indicative of increased understanding of product use. In fact, those who had borrowed the most in the past did not do a better job of predicting their future use; they were actually more likely to underestimate how long it would take them to repay fully. As Mann noted in his paper, ``heavy users of the product tend to be those that understand least what is likely to happen to them.'' \551\

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    \551\ See Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 127 (2013).

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    Finally, Mann's research also indicated that about as many consumers underestimated how long they would need to re-borrow as those who overestimated it, which suggested they have difficulty predicting the extent to which they will need to re-borrow. In particular, the Bureau's analysis of the data underlying Mann's paper determined that there was not a correlation between borrowers' predicted length of re-

    borrowing and their actual length of re-borrowing.\552\ Professor Mann, in an email to the Bureau, confirmed that his data showed no significant relationship between the predicted number of days and the days to clearance.\553\ This point was reinforced in his survey results by the fact that fully 20 percent of the borrowers who responded were not even able to offer any prediction at all about their expected duration of indebtedness.\554\

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    \552\ Attachment to Email from Ronald Mann, Professor, Columbia Law School, to Jialan Wang & Jesse Leary, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (Sept. 24, 2013, 1:32 EDT), at 17.

    \553\ Email from Ronald Mann, Professor, Columbia Law School, to Jialan Wang & Jesse Leary, Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot. (Sept. 24, 2013, 1:32 EDT).

    \554\ Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 121 (2013).

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    Professor Mann submitted a comment about his paper, which took issue with the Bureau's analysis of its findings. He contended his research shows instead that most payday borrowers expected some repeated sequences of loans, most of them accurately predicted the length of the sequence that they would borrow, and they did not systematically err on the optimistic side. The Bureau acknowledges these findings, and does not believe they are inconsistent with the interpretation provided here. Mann also noted that the Bureau placed its main emphasis not on the entire universe of borrowers, but on the group of borrowers who continued borrowing over the period for which he had access to the loan data, where his research showed that many of those borrowers did not anticipate that they would end up in such extended loan sequences. He further acknowledged that ``the absolute size of the errors is largest for those with the longest sequences.'' \555\ He went on to state that this finding suggests ``that the borrowers who have borrowed the most are those who are in the most dire financial distress, and consequently least able to predict their future liquidity.'' \556\ He also noted that the errors of estimation these borrowers tend to make are unsystematic and do not consist either of regular underestimation or regular overestimation of their subsequent duration of borrowing.\557\

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    \555\ Prof. Ronald Mann comment letter, at 3.

    \556\ Prof. Ronald Mann comment letter, at 3.

    \557\ Prof. Ronald Mann comment letter, at 3.

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    The discussion of these survey findings thus seems to reflect more of a difference in emphasis than a disagreement over the facts. Professor Mann's interpretation appears most applicable to those borrowers who remain in debt for a relatively short period, who constitute a majority of all borrowers, and who do not appear to systematically fail to appreciate what will happen to them when they re-borrow. The Bureau does not disagree with this point. Instead, it emphasizes the subset of borrowers who are its principal concern, which consists of those longer-term borrowers who find themselves in extended loan sequences and thereby experience the various harms that are associated with a longer cycle of indebtedness. For those borrowers, the picture is quite different, and their ability to estimate accurately what will happen to them when they take out a payday loan is more limited, as Mann noted in his paper and in the comment he submitted.\558\ For example, of the borrowers who remained in debt at least 140 days (10 biweekly loans), it appears that all (100 percent) underestimated their times in debt, with the average borrower in this group spending 119 more days in debt than anticipated (equivalent to 8.5 unanticipated rollovers). Of those borrowers who spent 90 or more days in debt (i.e., those most directly affected by the rule's limits on re-borrowing under the Sec. 1041.6), it appears that more than

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    95 percent underestimated their time in debt, spending an average of 92 more days in debt than anticipated (equivalent to 6.5 unanticipated rollovers). Additionally, a line of ``best fit'' provided by Professor Mann describing the relationship between a borrower's expected time in debt and the actual time in debt experienced by that borrower shows effectively zero slope (indicating no correlation between a borrower's expectations and outcomes). In other words, while many individuals appear to have anticipated short durations of use with reasonable accuracy (highlighted by Mann's interpretation), virtually none properly anticipated long durations (which is the market failure described here).\559\ For further discussion on the Mann data, see the Section 1022(b)(2) Analysis in part VII below.

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    \558\ Ronald Mann, ``Assessing the Optimism of Payday Loan Borrowers,'' 21 Supreme Court Econ. Rev. 105, at 127 (2013); Prof. Ronald Mann comment letter, at 2.

    \559\ It should be noted that Professor Mann did not provide his data to the Bureau, either prior to the proposal, or in his comment in response to the proposal. In place of these data, the Bureau is relying on the charts and graphs he provided in his correspondence with and presentation to the Bureau. Amongst other things, these graphs depict the distribution of borrowers' expectations and outcomes, but as they are scatterplots, counting the number of observations in areas of heavy mass (e.g., expecting no rollovers) is difficult. As such the analysis provided here may be somewhat imprecise.

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    Professor Mann's comment also referred to two other surveys of payday borrowers that the Bureau discussed in its proposal. A trade association commissioned the two surveys, which suggest that consumers are able to predict their borrowing patterns.\560\ Both studies, as the Bureau had noted and as Professor Mann acknowledged, are less reliable in their design than the original Mann study because they focus only on borrowers who had successfully repaid a recent loan, which clearly would have biased the results of those surveys, because that approach would tend to under-sample borrowers who are in extended loan sequences. In addition, by entirely omitting borrowers whose loan sequences ended in default, these studies would have skewed the sample in other respects as well. At a minimum, the majority of borrowers who are light users of payday loans are likely to experience such loans very differently from the significant subset of borrowers (who are a minority of all borrowers, though the loans made to them constitute an overall majority of these loans) who find that they end up in extended loan sequences and suffer the various negative consequences of that predicament.

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    \560\ Tarrance Group et al., ``Borrower and Voter Views of Payday Loans,'' Cmty. Fin. Servs. Ass'n of America (2016), available at http://www.tarrance.com/docs/CFSA-BorrowerandVoterSurvey-AnalysisF03.03.16.pdf; Harris Interactive, ``Payday Loans and the Borrower Experience,'' Cmty. Fin. Servs. Ass'n of America (2013), available at http://cfsaa.com/Portals/0/Harris_Interactive/CFSA_HarrisPoll_SurveyResults.pdf. The trade association and SERs have cited this survey in support of their critiques of the Bureau's Small Business Review Panel Outline.

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    These surveys, which were very similar to each other, were conducted in 2013 and 2016 of storefront payday borrowers who had recently repaid a loan and had not taken another loan within a specified period of time. Of these borrowers, 94 to 96 percent reported that when they took out the loan they understood well or very well ``how long it would take to completely repay the loan'' and a similar percentage reported that they, in fact, were able to repay their loan in the amount of time they expected. These surveys suffer from the challenge of asking people to describe their expectations about borrowing at some time in the past, which may lead to recall problems, as described earlier. In light of the sampling bias discussed above and the challenge inherent in the survey design, the Bureau concludes that these studies do not undermine the evidence above indicating that especially those consumers who engage in long-term re-borrowing through extended loan sequences are generally not able to predict accurately the number of times that they will need to re-borrow.

    As discussed in the proposal, several factors may contribute to consumers' lack of understanding of the risk of re-borrowing that will result from loans that prove unaffordable. As explained above in the section on lender practices, there is a mismatch between how these products are marketed and described by industry and how they actually operate in practice. Although lenders present the loans as a temporary bridge option, only a minority of payday loans are repaid without any re-borrowing. These loans often produce lengthy cycles of rollovers or new loans taken out shortly after the prior loans are repaid. Not surprisingly, many borrowers (especially those who end up in extended loan sequences) are not able to tell when they take out the first loan how long their cycles will last and how much they will ultimately pay for the initial disbursement of cash. Even borrowers who believe they will be unable to repay the loan immediately--and therefore expect some amount of re-borrowing--are generally unable to predict accurately how many times they will re-borrow and at what cost, unless they manage to repay the loan fairly quickly. And, as noted above, borrowers who end up re-borrowing many times are especially susceptible to inaccurate predictions.

    Moreover, as noted in the proposal, research suggests that financial distress can be one of the factors in borrowers' decision-

    making. As discussed above, payday and single-payment vehicle title loan borrowers are often in financial distress at the time they take out the loans. Their long-term financial condition is typically very poor. For example, as described above, studies find that both storefront and online payday borrowers have little to no savings and very low credit scores, which is a sign of overall distressed financial condition. They may have credit cards but likely do not have unused credit, are often delinquent on one or more cards, and have often experienced multiple overdrafts and/or NSFs on their checking accounts.\561\ They typically have tried and failed to obtain other forms of credit before turning to a payday lender, or they otherwise may perceive that such other options would not be available to them and there is no time to comparison shop when facing an imminent liquidity crisis.

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    \561\ See Neil Bhutta et al., ``Payday Loan Choices and Consequences,'' at 15-16 (Apr. 2, 2014), available at http://www.calcfa.com/docs/PaydayLoanChoicesandConsequences.pdf; Neil Bhutta et al., ``Payday Loan Choices and Consequences,'' 47 J. of Money, Credit and Banking 223 (2015); CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 3-4; Brian Baugh, ``What Happens When Payday Borrowers Are Cut Off From Payday Lending? A Natural Experiment,) Payday Lending? A Natural Experiment,) (Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 2015), available at http://fisher.osu.edu/supplements/10/16174/Baugh.pdf.

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    Research has shown that when people are under pressure they tend to focus on the immediate problem they are confronting and discount other considerations, including the longer- term implications of their actions. Researchers sometimes refer to this phenomenon as ``tunneling,'' evoking the tunnel-vision decision-making that people may tend to engage in as they confront such situations. Consumers experiencing a financial crisis, as they often are when they are deciding whether or not to take out these kinds of loans, can be prime examples of this behavior.\562\ Even when consumers are not facing a crisis, research shows that they tend to underestimate their near-term expenditures \563\ and, when

    Page 54571

    estimating how much financial ``slack'' they will have in the future, tend to discount even the expenditures they do expect to incur.\564\ Finally, regardless of their financial situation, research suggests that consumers may generally have unrealistic expectations about their future earnings, their future expenses, and their ability to save money to repay future obligations. Much research has documented that consumers in many contexts demonstrate optimism bias about future events and their own future performance. Without attempting to specify how frequently these considerations may affect individual borrower behavior, it is enough here to note that they are supported in the academic literature and are consistent with the observed behavior of those who use covered short-term loans.\565\

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    \562\ See generally Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir, ``Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives,'' (Picador, 2014).

    \563\ Johanna Peetz & Roger Buehler, ``When Distance Pays Off: The Role of Construal Level in Spending,'' Predictions, 48 J. of Experimental Soc. Psychol. 395 (2012); Johanna Peetz & Roger Buehler, ``Is the A Budget Fallacy? The Role of Savings Goals in the Prediction of Personal Spending,'' 34 Personality and Social Psychol. Bull. 1579 (2009); Gulden Ulkuman et al., ``Will I Spend More in 12 Months or a Year? The Effects of Ease of Estimation and Confidence on Budget Estimates,'' 35 J. of Consumer Research 245, at 249 (2008).

    \564\ Jonathan Z. Berman et al., ``Expense Neglect in Forecasting Personal Finances,'' at 5-6 (2014) (forthcoming publication in J. of Marketing Res.), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2542805.

    \565\ The foundational works on optimism bias come from the behavioral economics literature on forecasting. See, e.g., Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky, ``Intuitive Prediction: Biases and Corrective Procedures,'' 12 TIMS Studies in Mgmt. Science 313 (1979); Roger Buehler et al., ``Exploring the ``Planning Fallacy'': Why People Underestimate their Task Completion Times,'' 67 J. Personality & Soc. Psychol. 366 (1994); Roger Buehler et al., ``Inside the Planning Fallacy: The Causes and Consequences of Optimistic Time Prediction, in Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment,'' at 250-70 (Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin, & Daniel Kahneman eds., 2002). Nonetheless, it is worth noting that many of the same behaviors and outcomes can be derived from other economic models based on the premise that consumers in similar situations behave rationally in light of their circumstances.

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    As discussed in the proposal, each of these behavioral biases is exacerbated when facing a financial crisis, and taken together they can contribute to affecting the decision-making of consumers who are considering taking out a payday loan, a single-payment vehicle title loan, or some other covered short-term loan. The effect of these behavioral biases may cause consumers to fail to make an accurate assessment of the likely duration of indebtedness, and, consequently, the total costs they will pay as a result of taking out the loan. Tunneling also may cause consumers not to focus sufficiently on the future implications of taking out a loan. To the extent consumers do comprehend what will happen when the loan comes due--or when future loans come due in extended loan sequences--underestimation of future expenditures and optimism bias can cause them to misunderstand the likelihood of repeated re-borrowing. These effects could be attributable to their belief that they are more likely to be able to repay the loan without defaulting or re-borrowing than they actually are. And consumers who recognize at origination that they will have difficulty paying back the loan and that they may need to roll the loan over or re-borrow once or twice may still underestimate the likelihood that they will wind up rolling over or re-borrowing multiple times and the increasingly high costs of doing so.

    Regardless of the underlying explanation, the empirical evidence indicates that many borrowers who find themselves ending up in extended loan sequences did not expect that outcome--with their predictive abilities diminishing as the loan sequences become more extended. In this regard, it is notable that one survey found that payday and vehicle title borrowers were more likely to underestimate the cost and amount of time in debt than borrowers of other products examined in the survey, including pawn loans, deposit advance products, and installment loans.\566\

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    \566\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

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    The commenters on this discussion in the proposal expressed sharply divergent views. Some industry commenters stated their belief that consumers make rational decisions and many of them do expect to re-

    borrow when they take out covered short-term loans. Others noted that this argument fails to come to grips with the key problem that the Bureau has focused on in its analysis--known to economists as a ``right tail'' problem--which rests on the fact that a subset constituting a substantial population of payday borrowers are the ones who do not seem to expect but yet experience the most extreme negative outcomes with these loans.

    Other industry participants and trade associations criticized the Bureau for not conducting its own surveys of payday and title borrowers, and contended that such surveys would have shown that borrowers are generally well informed about their decisions to obtain such loans. And a large number of comments from individual users of these loans were in accord with these views, presenting their own experiences with such loans as positive and as having benefited their financial situations.

    Other industry commenters pointed out what they regarded as a low volume of consumer complaints about this product, which they viewed as inconsistent with the notion that many borrowers are surprised by experiencing unexpected negative outcomes with these loans. Yet it is equally plausible that those borrowers who find themselves in extended loan sequences may be embarrassed and therefore may be less likely to submit complaints about their situation. This is consistent with survey results that show many confirmed borrowers nonetheless deny having taken out a payday loan.\567\ Borrowers may also blame themselves for having gotten themselves caught up in a cycle of debt authorized by State law, which may also explain why they would be unlikely to file a complaint with a government agency or a government official.

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    \567\ Gregory Elliehausen and Edward C. Lawrence, ``Payday Advance Credit in America: An Analysis of Customer Demand,'' (Geo. U., McDonough Sch. of Bus., Monograph No. 35, 2001).

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    In addition, the Bureau has noted previously that a relatively high proportion of debt collection complaints it receives are about payday loans--a much higher proportion, for example, than for mortgages or auto loans or student loans.\568\ From its consumer complaint data, the Bureau observed that from November 2013 through December 2016 more than 31,000 debt collection complaints cited payday loans as the underlying debt. More than 11 percent of the complaints that the Bureau has handled about debt collection stem directly from payday loans.\569\ And in any event, it is not at all clear that the Bureau receives a low number of consumer complaints about payday loans once they are normalized in comparison to other credit products. For example, in 2016, the Bureau received approximately 4,400 complaints in which consumers reported ``payday loan'' as the complaint product and about 26,600 complaints about credit cards.\570\ Yet there are only about 12 million payday loan borrowers annually, and approximately 156 million consumers

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    have one or more credit cards.\571\ Therefore, by way of comparison, for every 10,000 payday loan borrowers, the Bureau received about 3.7 complaints, while for every 10,000 credit cardholders, the Bureau received about 1.7 complaints.

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    \568\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 18,'' (Dec. 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/monthly-complaint-report-vol-18/.

    \569\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 18,'' at 12 (Dec. 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/monthly-complaint-report-vol-18/.

    \570\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Consumer Response Annual Report, January 1-December 31, 2016,'' at 27, 33 (Mar. 2017), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/3368/201703_cfpb_Consumer-Response-Annual-Report-2016.PDF.

    \571\ Bureau staff estimate based on finding that 63 percent of American adults hold an open credit card and Census population estimates. Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``The Consumer Credit Card Market Report,'' at 36 (Dec. 2015), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_report-the-consumer-credit-card-market.pdf; U.S. Census Bureau, ``Annual Estimates of Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016,'' (June 2017), available at https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/PEP/2016/PEPAGESEX. Other estimates of the number of credit card holders have been higher, meaning that 1.7 complaints per 10,000 credit card holders would be a high estimate. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 160 million credit card holders in 2012, and researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimated that 72.1 percent of U.S. consumers held at least one credit card in 2014. U.S. Census Bureau, ``Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012,'' at 740 tbl.1188 (Aug. 2011), available at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed.html; Claire Greene et al., ``The 2014 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice: Summary Results,'' at 18 (Fed. Reserve Bank of Boston, No. 16-3, 2016), available at https://www.bostonfed.org/-/media/Documents/researchdatareport/pdf/rdr1603.pdf. And as noted above in the text, additional complaints related to both payday loans and credit cards are submitted as debt collection complaints with ``payday loan'' or ``credit card'' listed as the type of debt.

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    In addition, some faith leaders and faith groups of many denominations from around the country collected and submitted comments, which underscored the point that many borrowers may direct their personal complaints or dissatisfactions with their experiences elsewhere than to government officials. Indeed, some of the faith leaders who commented on the proposal mentioned their intentions or efforts to develop their own safer loan products in response to the crises related to them by such borrowers.

    Various commenters, including some academics such as Professor Mann whose views are discussed above, also cited research that they viewed as showing that such borrowers understand the nature of the product, including the fact that they may remain indebted beyond the initial term of the loan, with many able to predict accurately (within two weeks) how long it will take to repay their loan or loans. They cited various studies to make the point that consumers are in a better position to understand and act in their own interests than are policymakers who are more removed from the conditions of their daily lives. Some of these commenters were particularly critical of what they viewed as the erroneous assumptions and, even more broadly, the misguided general approach taken by behavioral economists. They argued that any such approach to policymaking is not well grounded and runs counter to their preferred view that consumer behavior instead is marked by rational expectations and clear insight into decision-making about financial choices.

    By contrast, many consumer groups and some researchers took a very different view. They tended to agree with the points presented in the proposal about how behavioral characteristics can undermine decision-

    making for borrowers of these loans, especially for those in financial distress. In their view, these factors can and often do lead to misjudgments by many consumers of the likelihood that they may find themselves caught up in extended loan sequences and experiencing many of the harmful collateral consequences that were described in the proposal. They suggested that both the research and the personal experiences of many borrowers suggest that this picture of a substantial number of consumers is generally accurate, especially for those consumers who find that they have ended up in extended loan sequences.

    As the Bureau had noted in the proposal, the patterns of behavior and outcomes in this market are broadly consistent with a number of cognitive biases that are described and documented in the academic literature on behavioral economics. Yet it is important to note that the Bureau's intervention is motivated by the observed pattern of outcomes in the market, and not by any settled viewpoint on the varying theories about the underlying rationality of the decisions that may lead to them. That is, the Bureau does not and need not take a position here on the types of behavioral motivations that may drive the observed outcomes, for it is the outcomes themselves that are problematic, regardless of how economists may attempt to explain them. In fact, both the rational agent models generally favored by industry comments and the more behavioral models favored by consumer groups and some researchers could very well lead to these same observed outcomes.

    The Bureau has weighed these conflicting comments and concludes that the discussion of these issues in the proposal remains generally accurate and is supported by considerable research and data on how payday and title loans operate in actual practice and how these loans are experienced by consumers. The data do seem to indicate that a significant group of consumers do not accurately predict the duration of their borrowing. This is particularly true, notably, for the subset of consumers who do in fact end up in extended loan sequences. These findings, and not any definitive judgment about the validity of behavioral economics or other theories of consumer behavior, provide the foundation on which this rule is based. Finally, though certain commenters have expressed concern that the Bureau had not heard sufficiently from individual users of these loans, the Bureau has now received and reviewed a high volume of individual comments that were submitted as part of this rulemaking process.

    e. Delinquency and Default

    The proposal also addressed the specific topics of delinquency and default on payday and single-payment vehicle title loans. In addition to the various harms caused by unanticipated loan sequences, the Bureau was concerned that many borrowers suffer other harms from unaffordable loans in the form of the collateral costs that come from being delinquent or defaulting on the loans. Many borrowers, when faced with unaffordable payments, will be late in making loan payments, and may ultimately cease making payments altogether and default on their loans.\572\ They may take out multiple loans before defaulting, either because they are simply delaying the inevitable or because their financial situation deteriorates over time to the point where they become delinquent and eventually default rather than continuing to pay additional re-borrowing fees. For example, the evidence from the CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings shows that approximately two-thirds of payday loan sequences ending in default are multi-loan sequences in which the borrower has rolled over or re-borrowed at least once before defaulting. And nearly half of the consumers who experienced either a default or a 30-day delinquency already had monthly fees exceeding $60 before their first default or 30-day delinquency occurred.

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    \572\ This discussion uses the term ``default'' to refer to borrowers who do not repay their loans. Precise definitions will vary across analyses, depending on specific circumstances and data availability.

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    While the Bureau noted in the proposal that it is not aware of any data directly measuring the number of late payments across the industry, studies of what happens when payments are so late that the lenders deposit the consumers' original post-dated checks

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    suggest that late payment rates are relatively high. For example, one study of payday borrowers in Texas found that in 10 percent of all loans, the post-dated checks were deposited and bounced.\573\ Looking at the borrower level, the study found that half of all borrowers had a check that was deposited and bounced over the course of the year following their first payday loan.\574\ An analysis of data collected in North Dakota showed a lower, but still high, rate of lenders depositing checks that later bounced or trying to collect loan payment via an ACH payment request that failed. It showed that 39 percent of new borrowers experienced a failed loan payment of this type within a year after their first payday loan, and 44 percent did so within the first two years after their first payday loan.\575\ In a public filing, one large storefront payday lender reported a lower rate (6.5 percent) of depositing checks, of which nearly two-thirds were returned for insufficient funds.\576\ In the Bureau's analysis of ACH payments initiated by online payday and payday installment lenders, half of online borrowers had at least one overdraft or NSF transaction related to their loans over 18 months. These borrowers' depository accounts incurred an average total of $185 in fees.\577\

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    \573\ Paige Marta Skiba and Jeremy Tobacman, ``Payday Loans, Uncertainty, and Discounting: Explaining Patterns of Borrowing, Repayment, and Default,'' at 33 tbl. 2 (Vand. L. and Econ., Research Paper No. 08-33, 2008). The study did not separately report the percentage of loans on which the checks that were deposited were paid.

    \574\ These results are limited to borrowers paid on a bi-weekly schedule.

    \575\ Susanna Montezemolo & Sarah Wolff, ``Payday Mayday: Visible and Invisible Payday Defaults,'' at 4 (Ctr. for Responsible Lending, 2015), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/nodes/files/research-publication/finalpaydaymayday_defaults.pdf.

    \576\ ``For the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, we deposited customer checks or presented an Automated Clearing House (``ACH'') authorization for approximately 6.7 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, of all the customer checks and ACHs we received and we were unable to collect approximately 63 percent and 64 percent, respectively, of these deposited customer checks or presented ACHs.'' Advance America 2011 10-K. Borrower-level rates of deposited checks were not reported.

    \577\ CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 10-11.

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    As the Bureau noted in the proposal, bounced checks and failed ACH payments can be quite costly for borrowers. The median bank fee for an NSF transaction is $34.00, which is equivalent to the cost of a rollover on a $300 storefront loan.\578\ If the lender makes repeated attempts to collect using these methods, this leads to repeated fees being incurred by the borrower. The Bureau's research indicates that when one attempt fails, online payday lenders make a second attempt to collect 75 percent of the time but are unsuccessful in 70 percent of those cases. The failure rate increases with each subsequent attempt.\579\

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    \578\ CFPB Study of Overdraft Programs, at 52.

    \579\ CFPB Online Payday Loan Payments, at 3-4; see generally Market Concerns--Payments.

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    In addition to incurring NSF fees from a bank, in many cases when a check bounces the consumer can be charged a returned check fee by the lender. This means the borrower would be incurring duplicative and additional fees for the same failed transaction. In this connection, it should be noted that lender-imposed late fees are subject to certain restrictions in some but not all States.\580\

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    \580\ Most States limit returned item fees on payday loans to a single fee of $15-$40; $25 is the most common returned-item fee limit. Most States do not permit lenders to charge a late fee on a payday loan, although Delaware permits a late fee of five percent and several States' laws are silent on the question of late fees.

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    The proposal also noted that default can also be quite costly for borrowers. These costs vary with the type of loan and the channel through which the borrower took out the loan. As discussed above, default may come after a lender has already made repeated and expensive attempts to collect from the borrower's deposit account, such that a borrower may ultimately find it necessary to close the account. In other instances, the borrower's bank or credit union may close the account if the balance is driven negative and the borrower is unable for an extended period of time to return the balance to positive. And borrowers of single-payment vehicle title loans stand to suffer even greater harms from default, as it may lead to the repossession of their vehicle. In addition to the direct costs of the loss of an asset, the deprivation of their vehicle can seriously disrupt people's lives and put at risk their ability to remain employed or to manage their ordinary affairs as a practical matter. Yet another consequence of these setbacks could be personal bankruptcy in some cases.

    Default rates on individual payday loans appear at first glance to be fairly low. This figure is three percent in the data the Bureau has analyzed, and the commenters are in accord about this figure.\581\ But because so many borrowers respond to the unaffordability of these loans by re-borrowing in sequences of loans rather than by defaulting immediately, a more meaningful measure of default is the share of loan sequences that end in default. The Bureau's data show that, using a 30-

    day definition of a loan sequence, fully 20 percent of loan sequences end in default. A recent report based on a multi-lender dataset showed similar results, with a three percent loan-level default rate and a 16 percent sequence-level default rate.\582\

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    \581\ Default here is defined as a loan not being repaid as of the end of the period covered by the data or 30 days after the maturity date of the loan, whichever was later. The default rate was slightly higher four percent for new loans that are not part of an existing loan sequence, which could reflect an intention by some borrowers to take out a loan and not repay, or the mechanical fact that borrowers with a high probability of defaulting for some other reason are less likely to have a long sequence of loans.

    \582\ nonprime101, ``Report 3: Measure of Reduced Form Relationship between the Payment-Income Ratio and the Default Probability,'' at 6 (2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Clarity-Services-Measure-of-Reduced-Form-Relationship-Final-21715rev.pdf. This analysis defines sequences based on the pay frequency of the borrower, so some loans that would be considered part of the same sequence using a 30-day definition are not considered part of the same sequence in this analysis.

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    Other researchers have found similarly high levels of default. One study of Texas borrowers found that 4.7 percent of loans were charged off, while 30 percent of borrowers had a loan charged off in their first year of borrowing.\583\ Default rates on single-payment vehicle title loans are higher than those on storefront payday loans; in addition, initial single-payment vehicle title loans are more likely than storefront payday loans to result in a default. In the data analyzed by the Bureau, the default rate on all title loans is six percent, and the sequence-level default rate is 33 percent.\584\ Over half of all defaults occur in single-payment vehicle title loan sequences that consist of three or fewer loans. Nine percent of single-

    payment vehicle title loan sequences consist of single loans that end in default, compared to six percent of payday loan sequences.\585\ The Bureau's research suggests that title lenders repossess a vehicle slightly more than half the time when a borrower defaults on a loan. In the data the Bureau has analyzed, three percent of all single-payment vehicle title loans lead to repossession, which represents approximately 50 percent of loans on which the borrower defaulted. At the sequence level, 20 percent of sequences end up with the borrower's vehicle

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    being repossessed. In other words, one in five borrowers is unable to escape their debt on these loans without losing their car or truck.

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    \583\ Paige Marta Skiba and Jeremy Tobacman, ``Payday Loans, Uncertainty, and Discounting: Explaining Patterns of Borrowing, Repayment, and Default,'' at 33 tbl. 2 (Vand. L. and Econ., Research Paper No. 08-33, 2008). Again, these results are limited to borrowers paid bi-weekly.

    \584\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 23.

    \585\ CFPB Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending, at 11; CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 120.

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    Some industry and trade association commenters posited that the Bureau had overstated the default and repossession rates on vehicle title loans. Companies argued that the Bureau had erroneously stated a higher repossession rate than their own data showed, with one commenter estimating its own short-term title loan sequence repossession rate at 8.4 percent. Others contended that the Bureau's repossession rates were much higher than those reported through other sources, such as regulator reports in States like Idaho and Texas. In arguing that the Bureau had overstated the default and repossession rates, one trade group also cited a study which had concluded that the rates were lower. The study relied on a handful of State regulator reports in addition to ``industry sources.'' Yet the difference seems to trace to the fact that default and repossession rates are typically reported at the loan level rather than the sequence level. The Bureau's loan-level data is actually fairly similar to the figures cited by these commenters. But the Bureau believes that sequence level is a more appropriate indicator, since it captures experience at the level of the borrower. Put differently, sequence level more appropriately indicates outcomes for particular consumers, rather than for particular lenders; from this standpoint, a loan that is rolled over three times before defaulting should not be miscounted as three ``successfully'' repaid loans and one default. As noted previously, over 80 percent of single-payment vehicle title loans were re-borrowed on the same day as a previous loan was repaid. Regardless, to the extent any one company has lower repossession rates than the average, that fact does not put in question the averages that the Bureau used, because inevitably there will be companies that are both above and below the average. The Bureau also notes that the study discussed above cited by a trade group, which relies on undefined ``industry sources'' and a handful of State regulator reports to criticize the Bureau's data on default and repossession rates, relied on far less robust loan level data than the Bureau used to arrive at the figures it cited in the Bureau's supplemental research report and in the proposal.

    One commenter noted that because the vehicles put up for collateral on these loans are usually old and heavily used, lenders often do not repossess the vehicle because it is not worth the trouble. This commenter also argued that the impact of repossession is not significant, based on a study indicating that less than 15 percent of consumers whose vehicles are repossessed would not find alternative means of transportation, which again is at odds with the information presented in other studies that have been cited.\586\ Another commenter asserted that the stress created by the threat of vehicle repossession is no worse than other stresses felt by consumers in financial difficulties, though it is difficult to know how much to credit this claim.

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    \586\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, at 1038 (2014).

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    The proposal further noted that borrowers of all types of covered loans are also likely to be subject to collection efforts, which can take aggressive forms. From its consumer complaint data, the Bureau observed that from November 2013 through December 2016 more than 31,000 debt collection complaints cited payday loans as the underlying debt. More than 11 percent of the complaints that the Bureau has handled about debt collection stem directly from payday loans.\587\ These collections efforts can include harmful and harassing conduct, such as repeated phone calls from collectors to the borrower's home or place of work, the harassment of family and friends, and in-person visits to consumers' homes and worksites. Some of this conduct, depending on the facts and circumstances, may be illegal. Aggressive calling to the borrower's workplace can put at risk the borrower's employment and jeopardize future earnings. Many of these practices can cause psychological distress and anxiety for borrowers who are already under the strain of financial pressure.

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    \587\ Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Monthly Complaint Report, Vol. 18,'' at 12 (Dec. 2016), available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/monthly-complaint-report-vol-18/.

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    In fact, the Bureau's enforcement and supervisory examination processes have uncovered evidence of numerous illegal collection practices by payday lenders, including practices of the kinds just described. These have included: Illegal third-party calls, illegal home visits for collection purposes, false threats to add new fees, false threats of legal action or referral to a non-existent in-house ``collections department,'' and deceptive messages regarding non-

    existent ``special promotions'' to induce borrowers to return calls.\588\

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    \588\ See Bureau of Consumer Fin. Prot., ``Supervisory Highlights,'' at 17-19 (Spring 2014), available at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201405_cfpb_supervisory-highlights-spring-2014.pdf.

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    In addition, lenders and trade associations contended that the Bureau had overstated the extent of harm, noting that they do not typically report nonpayment of these kinds of loans to consumer reporting agencies, which can interfere with the consumer's access to credit, and that this lack of reporting would obviate any harm that the borrower would suffer on that front. Nonetheless, debt collectors can and do report unpaid debts to the consumer reporting companies even when the original creditors do not, and the aggressive collection tactics that the Bureau has identified with respect to unpaid payday loans through its investigations and numerous enforcement actions suggest that this may be a common collateral consequence of default on these loans as well.\589\

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    \589\ See, e.g., In the Matter of Money Tree, Inc., No. 2016-

    CFPB-0028; In the Matter of EZCORP, Inc., No. 2015-CFPB-0031; CFPB v. NDG Financial Corp., No. 15-05211 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); In the Matter of ACE Cash Express, Inc., No. 2014-CFPB-0008; In the Matter of Westlake Servs., LLC, No. 2015-CFPB-0026. The Bureau has also taken actions against debt collectors, some of which collect in part on small-dollar loans. See, e.g., CFPB v. MacKinnon, et al., No. 16-

    00880 (W.D.N.Y. 2016).

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    The potential consequences of the loss of a vehicle depend on the transportation needs of the borrower's household and the available transportation alternatives. According to two surveys of title loan borrowers, 15 percent of all borrowers report that they would have no way to get to work or school if they lost their vehicle to repossession.\590\ Using an 8 percent repossession rate, one industry commenter asserted that only about one percent of title loan borrowers would thus lose critical transportation, by multiplying 15 percent times 8 percent. However, the survey author specifically warns against doing this, noting that ``a borrower whose car is repossessed probably has lower wealth and income than a borrower whose car is not repossessed, and is therefore probably more likely to lack another way of getting to work.'' \591\ More than one-third (35 percent) of borrowers pledge the title to the only working vehicle in the household.\592\ Even those with a

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    second vehicle or the ability to get rides from friends or take public transportation would presumably experience significant inconvenience or even hardship from the loss of a vehicle. This hardship goes beyond simply getting to work or school, and would as a practical matter also adversely affect the borrower's ability to conduct their ordinary household affairs, such as obtaining food or medicine or other necessary services.

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    \590\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, 1029-1030 (2014); Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' at 14 (2015), available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/

    03/AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en.

    \591\ Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. at 1038 n.137.

    \592\ Pew Charitable Trusts, ``Auto Title Loans: Market Practices and Borrowers' Experiences,'' (2015), available at http://

    www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2015/03/

    AutoTitleLoansReport.pdf?la=en.

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    In the proposal, the Bureau noted that it analyzed online payday and payday installment lenders' attempts to withdraw payments from borrowers' deposit accounts, and found that six percent of payment attempts that were not preceded by a failed payment attempt themselves fail, incurring NSF fees.\593\ Another six percent avoid failure, despite a lack of sufficient available funds in the borrower's account, but only because the borrower's depository institution makes the payment as an overdraft, in which case the borrower was likely to be charged a fee that is generally similar in magnitude to an NSF fee. The Bureau could not determine default rates from these data.

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    \593\ The bank's analysis includes both online and storefront lenders. Storefront lenders normally collect payment in cash and only deposit checks or submit ACH requests for payment when a borrower has failed to pay in person. These check presentments and ACH payment requests, where the borrower has already failed to make the agreed-upon payment, have a higher rate of insufficient funds.

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    As noted in the proposal, when borrowers obtain a payday or title loan, they may fail to appreciate the extent of the risk that they will default and the costs associated with default. Although consumers may well understand the concept and possibility of default, in general, they are unlikely, when they are deciding whether to take out a loan, to be fully aware of the extent of the risk and severity of the harms that would occur if they were to default or what it would take to avoid default. They may be overly focused on their immediate needs relative to the longer-term picture. The lender's marketing materials may have succeeded in convincing the consumer of the value of a loan to bridge financial shortfalls until their next paycheck. Some of the remedies a lender might invoke to address situations of nonpayment, such as repeatedly attempting to collect from a borrower's checking account or using remotely created checks, may be unknown or quite unfamiliar to many borrowers. Realizing that these measures are even a possibility would depend on the borrower investigating what would happen in the case of an event they typically do not expect to occur, such as a default.

    Industry commenters contended that consumers tend to be highly knowledgeable about the nature, costs, and overall effects of payday and single-payment vehicle title loans. Yet they generally did not address the points raised here about the level of awareness and familiarity that these consumers would tend to have about the risks and costs of these other, more collateral consequences of delinquency and default. Consumer groups, by contrast, supported the view that these collateral consequences are part of the true overall cost of payday and title loans and that they are largely unforeseen by most consumers.

    f. Collateral Harms From Making Unaffordable Payments

    The proposal further elucidated other harms associated with payday and title loans, in addition to the harms associated with delinquency and default, by describing how borrowers who take out these loans may experience other financial hardships as a result of making payments on unaffordable loans. These harms may occur whether or not the borrower also experiences delinquency or default somewhere along the way, which means they could in many cases be experienced in addition to the harms otherwise experienced from these situations.

    These further harms can arise where the borrower feels compelled to prioritize payment on the loan and does not wish to re-borrow. This course of action may result in defaulting on other obligations or forgoing basic living expenses. If a lender has taken a security interest in the borrower's vehicle, for example, and the borrower does not wish to re-borrow, then the borrower is likely to feel compelled to prioritize payments on the title loan over other bills or crucial expenditures, because of the substantial leverage that the threat of repossession gives to the lender.

    The repayment mechanisms for other short-term loans can also cause borrowers to lose control over their own finances. If a lender has the ability to withdraw payment directly from a borrower's checking account, the borrower may lose control over the order in which she would prefer her payments to be made and thus may be unable to choose to make essential expenditures before repaying the covered loan. This is especially likely to happen when the lender is able to time the withdrawal to align with the borrower's payday or with the specific day when the borrower is scheduled to receive periodic income. Moreover, even if a title borrower does not have her vehicle repossessed, the threat of repossession in itself may cause tangible harm to borrowers. It may cause them to forgo other essential expenditures in order to make a payment they cannot afford in order to avoid repossession.\594\ And there may be psychological harm in addition to the stress associated with the possible loss of a vehicle. Lenders recognize that consumers often have a ``pride of ownership'' in their vehicle and, as discussed above, one or more lenders are willing to exceed their maximum loan amount guidelines by considering the vehicle's sentimental or use value to the consumer when they are assessing the amount of funds they will lend.

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    \594\ As the D.C. Circuit observed of consumers loans secured by interests in household goods, ``consumers threatened with the loss of their most basic possessions become desperate and peculiarly vulnerable to any suggested `ways out.' As a result, `creditors are in a prime position to urge debtors to take steps which may worsen their financial circumstances.' The consumer may default on other debts or agree to enter refinancing agreements which may reduce or defer monthly payments on a short-term basis but at the cost of increasing the consumer's total long-term debt obligation.'' AFSA, 767 F.2d at 974 (1985) (internal citation omitted).

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    The Bureau noted in the proposal that it is not able to directly observe the harms that borrowers suffer from making unaffordable payments. But it stands to reason that when loans are made without regard to the consumer's ability to repay and the lender secures the ability to debit a consumer's account or repossess a vehicle, many borrowers are suffering harms from making unaffordable payments at certain times, and perhaps frequently.

    The commenters had vigorous reactions to this discussion in the proposal. On the effects that vehicle title borrowers feel based on their concern about losing their transportation, industry commenters argued that the Bureau had overstated its points. They emphasized that these loans are typically non-recourse loans in many States, which puts some specific limits on the harm experienced by borrowers. In the proposal, the Bureau had observed that this result would still expose the borrower to consider threat of harm if they end up losing their primary (and in many instances their sole) means of transportation to work and to manage their everyday affairs. Moreover, the Bureau notes these comments omit the issue of what harms exist in States where vehicle title loans

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    are recourse. The Bureau notes the receipt of a comment letter from two consumer advocacy groups that discussed in detail the laws and lender practices in Arizona, where a robust vehicle title loan market exists. They wrote that in Arizona lenders are permitted to sue for deficiency balances after repossession; lenders can collect a ``reasonable amount'' for the cost of collection and court and attorneys' fees related to repossession; and that as of 2015, nine of out of 10 largest title lenders still required borrowers to provide bank account access to get loans secured by vehicles.\595\ Furthermore, these commenters countered that borrowers often can find other means of transportation, citing what they present as a supportive survey. Their interpretation of the data is not convincing, however, as even the authors of the survey cautioned against making simplistic calculations about factors and probabilities that are intertwined in the analysis, and which thus may considerably understate the incidence of hardship. One industry commenter pointed to a survey which showed that though a majority of title loan borrowers would prioritize their title loan payment over that of a credit card, very few of these borrowers would prioritize a title loan payment over rent, utilities, groceries, or other expenses. However, the author of this survey clearly states that because of an extremely small sample size, his findings are anecdotal and are not representative of borrowers either in the local area surveyed or nationally.\596\

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    \595\ The Bureau notes that an industry trade group argued that lenders generally do not pursue deficiencies even when it is legal to do so. However, in substantiating this assertion the trade group essentially cites itself as evidence for the proposition (i.e., the trade group cites language from a study that itself cites language from the same trade group's Web site regarding best practices around repossession).

    \596\ Jim Hawkins, ``Credit on Wheels: The Law and Business of Auto-Title Lending,'' 69 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 535, 541 (2012).

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    The industry commenters further noted that as many as half of the title borrowers who default do so on their first payment, and they construed this occurrence as a strategic default which demonstrates that these borrowers did not confront any particular hardship by facing unaffordable payments that could cause them to lose their vehicle. Yet the notion that a borrower would make the conscious decision to employ this approach as a means of ``selling'' their vehicle, where they likely will receive a sharply reduced price for it and expose themselves to the other related risks discussed here, seems strained and implausible. That is especially the case insofar as doing so would needlessly incur the risks and costs of various potential penalty fees, late fees, towing fees, and the like that could occur (depending on the provisions of State law) when lenders carry out a repossession of the vehicle.

    Industry and trade association commenters also suggested that the proposal is improperly paternalistic by attempting to substitute the judgment of the Bureau for the judgments made by individual consumers about how best to address the risks of collateral harms from making unaffordable payments. Difficult choices that consumers have to make about how to meet their obligations may be temporarily eased by the ability to access these loans and utilize the proceeds, at least for those consumers who do not end up experiencing the kinds of negative collateral consequences described above from delinquencies and defaults, and perhaps for some other borrowers as well. It also can substitute a new creditor with more limited recourse for an existing creditor with greater leverage, such as a landlord or a utility company. Although the addition of a payday or title loan obligation to the already-constrained mix of obligations can lead to the kind of budgeting distortions described by the proposal, it might instead lead to more immediate financial latitude to navigate those choices and avoid the impending harms of delinquency or default on other pre-

    existing obligations. This narrative was echoed by comments from a large number of individual users of such loans, who described the benefits they experienced by having access to the loan proceeds for immediate use while finding various ways to avert the negative collateral consequences described in the proposal.

    Consumer groups, on the other hand, strongly urged the view that payday and title loans often lead to harms similar to those described in the proposal for a significant set of borrowers. This position was buttressed by submissions from and about a sizeable number of individual borrowers as well, which included narratives describing extreme financial dislocations flowing directly from harms cause by unaffordable payments. Although the proceeds of such loans do offer a temporary infusion of flexibility into the borrower's financial situation, that brief breathing spell is generally followed almost immediately thereafter by having to confront similar financial conditions as before but now with the looming or actual threat of these harmful collateral consequences being felt as well. Again, in contrast to the viewpoint that repeated re-borrowing may be consciously intended as a means of addressing financial shortfalls over a longer period of time, the consumer groups contended that extended loan sequences often reflect the inherent pressures of the initial financial need, now exacerbated by having to confront unaffordable payments on the new loan. And many individual users of such loans described their own negative experiences in ways that were consistent with the difficult situations and outcomes that can result from having to deal with unaffordable payments.

    Once again, the factual observations presented in the proposal on the kinds of collateral harms that can arise for payday and title borrowers who struggle to pursue potential alternatives to making unaffordable payments, as opposed to defaulting on these loans, were not seriously contested. The disagreement among the commenters was instead over the inferences to be drawn from these facts in context of other facts and potential benefits that they presented as bearing on their views of overall consumer welfare, and thus the broader conclusions to be drawn for purposes of deciding whether or not to support the proposed rule. Those contextual matters are important and will be discussed further in Sec. 1041.4 below.

    g. Harms Remain Under Existing Regulatory Approaches

    As stated in the proposal, based on the Bureau's analysis and outreach, the harms that it has observed from payday loans, single-

    payment vehicle title loans, and other covered short-term loans persist in these markets despite existing regulatory frameworks. This formulation, of course, is something of a tautology, since if the harms the Bureau perceives to exist do in fact exist, they clearly do so despite the impact of existing regulatory frameworks that fail to prevent or mitigate them. Nonetheless, in the proposal the Bureau stated that existing regulatory frameworks in those States that have authorized payday and/or title lending still leave many consumers vulnerable to the specific harms discussed above relating to default, delinquency, re-borrowing, and the collateral harms that result from attempting to avoid these other injuries by making unaffordable payments.

    Several different factors have complicated State efforts to effectively apply their regulatory frameworks to payday and title loans. For example, lenders may adjust their product offerings or their licensing status to

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    avoid State law restrictions, such as by shifting from payday loans to vehicle title or installment loans or open-end credit or by obtaining licenses under State mortgage lending laws.\597\ As noted earlier, the State regulatory frameworks grew up around the pre-existing models of single-payment payday loans, but have evolved in certain respects over the past two decades. States also have faced challenges in applying their laws to certain online lenders, including lenders claiming Tribal affiliation or offshore lenders.\598\

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    \597\ As discussed in part II, payday lenders in Ohio began making loans under the State's Mortgage Loan Act and Credit Service Organization Act following the 2008 adoption of the Short-Term Lender Act, which limited interest and fees to 28 percent APR among other requirements, and a public referendum the same year voting down the reinstatement of the State's Check-Cashing Lender Law, under which payday lenders had been making loans at higher rates.

    \598\ A recent report summarizes these legal actions and advisory notices. See Diane Standaert & Brandon Coleman, Ending the Cycle of Evasion: Effective State and Federal Payday Lending Enforcement (2015), http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/crl_payday_enforcement_brief_nov2015.pdf.

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    As discussed above in part II, States have adopted a variety of different approaches for regulating short-term loans. For example, 15 States and the District of Columbia have interest rate caps or other restrictions that, in effect, prohibit payday lending and thereby limit access to this form of credit. Although consumers in these States may still be exposed to potential harms from short-term lending, such as online loans made by lenders that claim immunity from these State laws or from loans obtained in neighboring States, these provisions provide strong protections for consumers by substantially reducing their exposure to the harms they can incur from these loans. Again, as discussed above, these harms flow from the term and the single-payment structure of these loans, which along with certain lender practices expose a substantial population of consumers to the risks and harms they experience, such as ending up in extended loan sequences.

    As explained in greater detail in part II above and in the section-

    by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.5, the 35 States that permit payday loans in some form have taken a variety of different approaches to regulating such loans. Some States have restrictions on rollovers or other re-borrowing. Among other things, these restrictions may include caps on the total number of permissible loans in a given period, or cooling-off periods between loans. Some States prohibit a lender from making a payday loan to a borrower who already has an outstanding payday loan.

    Some States have adopted provisions with minimum income requirements. For example, some States provide that a payday loan cannot exceed a percentage (most commonly 25 percent) of a consumer's gross monthly income. Some State payday or title lending statutes require that the lender consider a consumer's ability to repay the loan before making a loan, though none of them specifies what steps lenders must take to determine whether the consumer has the ability to repay a loan. Some States require that consumers have the opportunity to repay a short-term loan through an extended payment plan over the course of a longer period of time. And some jurisdictions require lenders to provide specific disclosures in order to alert borrowers of potential risks.

    While the proposal noted that these provisions may have been designed to target some of the same or similar potential harms identified above, these provisions do not appear to have had a significant impact on reducing the incidences of re-borrowing and other harms that confront consumers of these loans. In particular, as discussed above, the Bureau's primary concern about payday and title loans is that many consumers end up re-borrowing over and over again, turning what was ostensibly a short-term loan into a long-term cycle of debt with many negative collateral consequences. The Bureau's analysis of borrowing patterns in different States that permit payday loans indicates that most States have very similar rates of re-borrowing, with about 80 percent of loans followed by another loan within 30 days, regardless of the terms of the specific restrictions that are in place.\599\

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    \599\ CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at Chapter 4.

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    In particular, laws that prevent direct rollovers of payday loans, as well as laws that impose very short cooling-off periods between loans, such as Florida's prohibition on same-day re-borrowing, have had very little impact on re-borrowing rates measured over periods longer than one day. The 30-day re-borrowing rate in all States that prohibit rollovers is 80 percent, and in Florida the rate is 89 percent. Some States, however, do stand out as having substantially lower re-

    borrowing rates than other States. These include Washington, which limits borrowers to no more than eight payday loans in a rolling 12-

    month period and has a 30-day re-borrowing rate of 63 percent, and Virginia, which imposes a minimum loan length of two pay periods and imposes a 45-day cooling-off period once a borrower has had five loans in a rolling six-month period, and has a 30-day re-borrowing rate of 61 percent (though title loans have claimed much greater market share in the wake of these restrictions on payday loans).

    Likewise, the Bureau explained in the proposal the basis for its view that disclosures would be insufficient to adequately reduce the harm that consumers suffer when lenders do not reasonably determine consumers' ability to repay the loan according to its terms, which rested on two primary reasons. First, the Bureau noted that it is difficult for disclosures to address the underlying incentives in this market for lenders to encourage borrowers to re-borrow and take out extended loan sequences. As the Bureau discussed in the proposal, the prevailing business model in the short-term loan market involves lenders deriving a very high percentage of their revenues from extended loan sequences. The Bureau noted that while enhanced disclosures would provide more information to consumers, the Bureau believed that the single-payment structure of these loans, along with their high cost, would cause them to remain unaffordable for most consumers. The Bureau believed that, as a result, lenders would have no greater incentive to underwrite them more rigorously, and lenders would remain dependent on long-term loan sequences for revenues.

    Second, the Bureau noted in the proposal that empirical evidence suggests that disclosures may have only modest impacts on consumer borrowing patterns for short-term loans generally and negligible impacts on whether consumers re-borrow. The Bureau stated that evidence from a field trial of several disclosures designed specifically to warn of the risks and costs of re-borrowing showed that these disclosures had a marginal effect on the total volume of payday borrowing.\600\ The Bureau observed that its analysis of similar disclosures implemented by the State of Texas showed a reduction in loan volume of 13 percent after the disclosure requirement went into effect, relative to the loan volume changes for the study period in comparison States, but further showed that the probability of re-borrowing on a payday loan declined by only approximately two percent once the disclosure was put in

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    place.\601\ The Bureau noted that the analysis thus tended to confirm the fairly limited magnitude of the effects from the field trial.

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    \600\ Marianne Bertrand & Adair Morse, ``Information Disclosure, Cognitive Biases and Payday Borrowing and Payday Borrowing,'' 66 J. Fin. 1865 (2011), available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6261.2011.01698.x/full.

    \601\ See CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, at 73.

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    For these reasons, the Bureau stated in the proposal that evidence indicates the core harms to consumers in this credit market remain even after a disclosure regime is put in place. The Bureau also repeated its observation that consumers have a very high probability of winding up in a very long loan sequence once they have taken out only a few loans in a row.\602\ The Bureau noted that the contrast of the very high likelihood that a consumer will wind up in a long-term debt cycle after taking out only a few loans, with the nearly negligible impact of a disclosure on consumer re-borrowing patterns, provides further evidence of the insufficiency of disclosures to address what the Bureau perceives to be one of the core harms to consumers here. The issues around the sufficiency of disclosures, and whether it is likely that further disclosures would adequately address the harms that the Bureau has identified with payday and single-payment vehicle-title loans, are discussed further in the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.5.

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    \602\ As discussed above in Market Concerns--Underwriting, a borrower who takes out a fourth loan in a sequence has a 66 percent likelihood of taking out at least three more loans, for a total sequence length of seven loans, and a 57 percent likelihood of taking out at least six more loans, for a total sequence length of 10 loans.

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    The proposal also discussed the SBREFA process, and noted that many participants urged the Bureau to reconsider the proposals under consideration and to consider deferring to existing regulation of these credit markets by the States or to adopt Federal regulations that are modeled on the laws or regulations of certain States. In the Small Business Review Panel Report, the Panel recommended that the Bureau continue to consider whether regulations in place at the State level are sufficient to address concerns about unaffordable loan payments. The Panel also recommended that the Bureau consider whether existing State laws and regulations could provide a model for elements of the Federal regulation. The SBA Office of Advocacy raised similar issues and suggested that the Bureau should defer to State payday lending laws.

    The Bureau has examined State laws closely in connection with its work on the final rule, as discussed in part II above, and the Bureau has taken guidance from what it has learned from its consideration of those differing frameworks. The Bureau has also consulted with various State regulators and State Attorneys General on these issues over the course of its original research on these topics, its formulation of the SBREFA framework, its conduct of the SBREFA process, its formulation of the proposal, and its work since to finalize the rule. The Bureau has also considered the comments that it has received from all parties, including State regulators and State Attorneys General and the SBA Office of Advocacy, which conflict with one another in a great many respects on the topics and arguments that have already been addressed in this discussion. All of this consideration of the State legal and regulatory frameworks has been applicable to the Bureau's consideration of how it should approach its formulation of underwriting processes, restrictions on rollovers, and the use of cooling-off periods.

    For those States with strong usury caps, of course, it bears repeating that the Bureau is not authorized to mirror those provisions because it is expressly barred by statute from imposing any usury cap on these loans. The Bureau has recognized this explicit restriction and carefully followed it in promulgating this rule, which does not prohibit any loan from being made based on the interest rate charged on the loan. Some of the industry commenters and trade associations have disputed this point in connection with certain provisions of the proposal, but have not explained how any loans are being prohibited on that basis.

    Industry participants and trade associations commented extensively on the fact that payday and single-payment vehicle title loans are subject to significant regulation already in the remaining States, even without any new regulation being proposed by the Bureau. They pointed to specific State frameworks as examples of how these products are regulated adequately and as providing access to credit without posing undue problems for borrowers. One trade association, for example, specifically cited Florida's regulatory framework as allowing consumers in that State to use such products productively and successfully, while generating few complaints. Florida Congressional representatives made the same point. Other commenters, including some of the State Attorneys General, pointed to regulatory models in other States and drew similar conclusions. The Bureau has carefully assessed these State frameworks in considering how to respond to the comments received on the proposal and whether and how to modify the proposal in formulating the provisions of the final rule.

    For example, despite Colorado's 2010 payday lending reforms that set a six-month minimum loan term for payday loans and reduced the annual percentage rates, concerns remain about sustained use and ability to repay the loans. A recent report based on State regulator data noted that in 2015, the average borrower ``took out 3.3 loans from the same lender over the course of the year, with a growing percentage of consumers (14.7 percent) being in debt every day for 12 consecutive months. Also one in four payday loans show signs of distress by delinquency or default.'' \603\

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    \603\ Delvin Davis, Center for Responsible Lending, ``Mile High Money: Payday Stores Target Colorado Communities of Color,'' at 1 (Aug. 2017), available at http://www.responsiblelending.org/sites/default/files/nodes/files/research-publication/crl-mile-high-money-aug2017.pdf.

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    In 2010, the State of Washington amended its payday lending law to limit borrowers to no more than eight loans in a rolling 12-month period, add an extended repayment plan that borrowers could take any time before default, and add a database that all lenders must use to report loans and check before new loans are made.\604\ The State regulator has issued yearly reports; with the most recent report being from calendar year 2015. There is no specific ability-to-repay requirement other than the loan amount cannot exceed 30 percent of the borrower's gross monthly income or a maximum of $700 with no review of expenses.\605\ The 2015 report contains three highlights in particular. First, borrowing patterns continue to reflect a small number of borrowers responsible for most of the State's payday loans. For payday loans originated in calendar year 2015, about one-quarter (25.38 percent) of borrowers took out about half (49.59 percent) of the total loans.\606\ Second, about a quarter of borrowers--26.62 percent--

    reached the eight-loan cap during 2015.\607\ Note that the cap is

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    based on a rolling 12-month period rather than a calendar year and some of these loans may have been originated in 2014. Also, note that some borrowers may be seeking loans online through unlicensed lenders that are not included in the State's database. Third, 12.35 percent of loans were converted to an extended repayment plan (known as an installment loan plan) at some point in 2015. Borrowers may convert a payday loan to an installment loan plan at any time prior to default at no charge, with 90 to 180 days to repay based on the loan amount.\608\

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    \604\ All references are to the current Washington State Department of Financial Institutions report except where otherwise noted. Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 4 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf.

    \605\ Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 4 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf.

    \606\ Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 8 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf; (Borrower Loan Frequency table).

    \607\ Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 7 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf.

    \608\ Wash. State Dep't. of Fin. Insts., ``2015 Payday Lending Report,'' at 4, 7 (2015), available at http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2015-payday-lending-report.pdf.

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    Missouri's regulatory framework offers an illustrative example that bears on the Bureau's decision to require specific underwriting criteria under Sec. 1041.5, a set of requirements that many commenters have criticized as unduly prescriptive and unnecessarily burdensome. By contrast, Missouri law requires small-dollar lenders to consider the borrower's financial ability to reasonably repay under the terms of the loan contract, but does not specify how lenders may go about satisfying this requirement.\609\ The unsatisfactory result of this law, which fails to specify how lenders must satisfy the ability-to-repay requirement and thus allows lenders to exercise latitude in this regard, was starkly illustrated in a recent Missouri case that addressed the practical results of this framework. In a debt collection case, an appeals court judge concluded that the law, ``which was designed for unsecured loans of five hundred dollars or less, has through the allowance of practically unlimited interest rates charged on the loans allowed the companies that provide these loans to use the court system to collect amounts from debtors far beyond anything that could be deemed consistent with the statute's original purpose,'' thus providing ``a clear example of predatory lending.'' \610\ The judge then presented examples from the factual record in the case as follows:

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    \609\ Mo. Rev. Stat. sec. 408.500(7).

    \610\ Hollins v. Capital Solutions Investments, Inc., 477 SW.3d 19, 27 (Mo. Ct. App. 2015) (Dowd, J., concurring).

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    ``Class member, D.W., took out a $100 loan from CSI. A judgment was entered against him for $705.18; the garnishment is still pending. So far, $3174.81 has been collected, and a balance of $4105.77 remains.

    Class member, S.S., took out an $80 loan from CSI. A judgment was entered against her for $2137.68; the garnishment is still pending. So far, $5346.41 has been collected, and a balance of $19,643.48 remains.

    Class member, C.R., took out a $155 loan from CSI. A judgment was entered against her for $1686.93; the garnishment is still pending. So far, $9566.15 has been collected, and a balance of $2162.07 remains.'' \611\

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    \611\ Id.

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    The judge went on to provide four other similar examples, all of which were apparently deemed by the lender to satisfy its own conception of an ability-to-repay standard, even though the judge found that ``the amount the lenders are collecting or are attempting to collect on these types of loans shocks the conscience'' and were ``beyond the ability of many debtors to ever pay off.'' \612\

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    \612\ Id. at 27-28.

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    In addition, many industry participants and trade associations pointed out that payday and title lending are already regulated at the Federal level to some degree. They noted, for example, that the following laws already apply to such loans: the Truth in Lending Act, the Electronic Transfer Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, among others. Many of these statutes have implementing regulations as well, thus adding to the pre-existing coverage of these loans under Federal law. And as recounted in part III, the Bureau has, in fact, engaged in extensive supervisory and enforcement activity with respect to payday loans and payday lenders under various provisions of the Federal consumer laws. These commenters often recognized that the Dodd-Frank Act confers separate and additional authority on the Bureau to promulgate rules to address unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, but contended that this authority should be used sparingly in light of the many statutes and regulations that already apply to such loans.

    In contrast, the consumer groups and other commenters drew a very different conclusion from their review of the State regulatory frameworks. They noted that more than 90 million people live in States without payday loans--where the State usury caps are viewed as effectively prohibiting such loans from being made as a practical matter--and observed that many of these consumers manage to deal with their cash shortfalls without resort to such loans. The same commenters contended that these consumers are not harmed by the absence of payday loans and instead are able to serve their financial needs through other credit products that are less risky. In their view, the alternatives available to potential borrowers in need of short-term credit are more diverse and more extensive than industry commenters have suggested. This market, as they describe it, is much broader than payday and single-payment vehicle title loans; it also comprises products such as credit cards, subprime credit cards, certain bank and credit union products, non-recourse pawn loans, employer funds, charitable funds, and payment plans that are often made available by utilities and others. They also suggested that other non-credit strategies, such as debt counseling and credit counseling, can be productive alternatives to payday and title loans. There was a wide gap in perspectives between these consumer groups and the industry commenters, who generally contended that these borrowers have a very limited range of alternative sources of credit available to them, other than payday and title loans, and are adversely affected when they lack access to these types of covered short-term loans. This disagreement is important and is considered further in the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.4 below in the discussions of unfairness and abusiveness.

    In sum, the Bureau has considered all of the comments received about the effects of the existing legal and regulatory frameworks, including the State frameworks, on the issues addressed in the proposal. Based on the Bureau's analysis of the factual data as noted above, the regulatory frameworks in most States that allow and regulate payday, title, and other covered short-term loans do not appear to have had a significant impact on reducing the amounts of default, delinquency, re-borrowing, and the other collateral harms from making unaffordable payments that confront consumers of these loans. Nor have other existing regulatory frameworks had a significant impact in mitigating those harms to consumers. For these and the other reasons discussed above, the Bureau concludes that federal intervention in these markets is warranted at this time.

    Longer-Term Balloon-Payment Loans

    As stated in the proposal, some longer-term payday installment loans and vehicle title loans are structured either to be repaid in a single lump-sum payment or to require a large balloon payment, often as a final payment of all principal due following a series of smaller interest-only payments. Unsurprisingly, many consumers find making such a payment as challenging as making the single payment under a

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    traditional, two-week payday loan, and such loans frequently result in default or re-borrowing.

    The Bureau concludes that consumers are likely to be adversely affected by the practice of making these loans without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay the loan while paying for basic living expenses and other major financial obligations. And while there does not appear to be a large market of longer-term balloon-

    payment loans today, the Bureau is concerned that the market for such loans might grow if it only regulated the underwriting of covered short-term loans. Based on the evolution in small-dollar loan markets after the Military Lending Act was enacted and the initial regulations implementing the MLA were adopted, the Bureau is concerned that lenders would gravitate toward making non-underwritten balloon-payment loans that slightly exceed the time limits in the definition for covered short-term loans, resulting in similar risks and harms to consumers from default, delinquency, re-borrowing, and the collateral consequences of forgoing basic living expenses or major financial obligations to avoid default.

    The Bureau received comments specifically on covered longer-term loans involving balloon payments. Several industry commenters stated that the Bureau's concerns about re-borrowing for covered longer-term loans should have focused primarily on loans with balloon payments, and argued that any restrictions should thus be limited to balloon-payment loans. The Bureau agrees with these commenters that the re-borrowing concerns with these loans are similar to the Bureau's concerns regarding covered short-term loans, and highlight similar problems from making covered longer-term balloon-payment loans without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay. The thrust of these industry comments thus has tended to reinforce the judgment the Bureau has now made to address the underwriting of covered longer-term balloon-payment loans in this rule.\613\

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    \613\ The Bureau acknowledges that its determination to address the underwriting of all covered longer-term balloon-payment loans in the final rule does represent an expansion of coverage over the proposal in certain respects, which are that it would cover all such loans regardless of their cost, and regardless of whether the lender obtained a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security. Given that the prevalence of these kinds of loans with a balloon-payment structure is limited, however, the Bureau finds from its experience and analysis of these loan markets that the incidence of low-cost longer-term balloon-payment loans (or high-cost longer-term balloon-

    payment loans that do not have a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security) is relatively insignificant.

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    As discussed more fully in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) and 1041.3(b)(2) of the final rule, the Bureau had proposed to define a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan to mean a covered longer-term loan that, in essence, is repayable either in a single lump-sum payment or requires at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment.\614\ After consideration of comments received concerning whether to maintain the proposal's approach to limiting coverage of such balloon-payment structures to those products that exceed a rate threshold and involved the taking of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security, the Bureau has decided to adopt a more expansive definition that includes all such payment structures regardless of price or other factors, unless they are specifically excluded or exempted under Sec. 1041.3 of the final rule.

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    \614\ To be precise, the term ``covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loan'' is defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) of the final rule to mean a loan described in Sec. 1041.2(b)(2) of the final rule, which is a covered loan that is not a covered short-term loan and: for closed-end credit, the consumer is required to repay the entire balance of the loan in a single payment more than 45 days after consummation, is required to repay substantially the entire amount of any advance in a single payment more than 45 days after the advance, or is required to pay at least one payment that is more than twice as large as any other payment(s); or for open-end credit, the consumer is required to repay substantially the entire amount of any advance at the end of a payment billing cycle that exceeds 45 days, or the credit plan is structured such that paying the required minimum payments may not fully amortize the outstanding balance by a specified date or time, and the amount of the final payment to repay the outstanding balance at such time could be more than twice the amount of other minimum payments under the plan. Id.

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    Because relatively few covered longer-term balloon-payment loans appear in the market today, the Bureau is supplementing its analysis in this section with relevant information it has on related types of covered longer-term loans--such as hybrid payday loans, payday installment loans, and vehicle title installment loans. Although these types of loans would not necessarily involve balloon payments per se, the Bureau finds no reason to expect that matters such as borrower characteristics and circumstances of borrowing are likely to differ substantially as between borrowers of longer-term title loans generally, for example, and borrowers of such loans with a balloon-

    payment structure. The Bureau concludes as follows:

    Lower-income, lower-savings consumers in financial difficulty. While there is less research available about the consumers who use these products as compared to covered short-term loan products, available information suggests that consumers who use hybrid payday, payday installment, and vehicle title installment loans also tend to come frequently from lower- or moderate-income households, have little savings or available credit, and have been turned away from other credit products. Their reasons for borrowing and use of loan proceeds are also generally consistent with those of short-term borrowers.

    Ability-to-collect business models. Lenders of most covered longer-term loans have built their business model on their ability to collect, rather than the consumers' ability to repay the loans. Specifically, these lenders generally screen for fraud risk but do not consider consumers' expenses to determine whether a loan is tailored to what the consumers can actually afford. They tend to rely heavily on pricing structures and on leverage over the consumer's bank account or vehicle title to protect their own interests, even when the loans prove unaffordable for consumers. Lenders may continue receiving payments even when the consumer is left unable to meet her basic living expenses or major financial obligations. Again, though this tends to be the case for borrowers of covered longer-term loans, it is even more likely to be true of such borrowers if their loans have a balloon-

    payment structure.

    Very high default rates. Defaults are a concern with covered longer-term loans generally, and especially so if those loans reflect a balloon-payment structure. In data from one lender that the Bureau analyzed, about 60 percent of balloon-payment installment loans result in default or refinancing. In general, borrowers experienced very high levels of delinquency and default--in some cases the default rate was over 50 percent at the loan sequence level. Prior to reaching the point of default, borrowers can be exposed to a variety of harms whose likelihood and magnitude are substantially increased because of leveraged payment mechanisms or vehicle security relative to similar loans without these features.

    Re-borrowing. The combination of leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security with an unaffordable balloon payment can compel consumers to re-borrow. They will often have to engage in costly re-borrowing when they are unable to repay the entire loan all at once and extraction of the unaffordable loan payment would leave them unable to cover basic living expenses or major financial obligations.

    Consumers do not understand the risks. The Bureau concludes that borrowers do not fully understand or

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    anticipate the consequences that are likely to occur when they take out covered longer-term balloon-payment loans, including both the high likelihood of default and the degree of collateral damage that can occur in connection with unaffordable loans.

    a. Borrower Characteristics and Circumstances of Borrowing

    Stand-alone data specifically about payday installment and vehicle title installment borrowers is less robust than for borrowers of covered short-term loans, as discussed above. Yet a number of sources provide combined data for both categories. Both the unique and combined sources suggest that borrowers in these markets generally have low-to-

    moderate incomes and poor credit histories. Their reasons for borrowing and use of loan proceeds are also generally consistent with those of covered short-term borrowers.

    1. Borrower Characteristics

    As described above, typical payday borrowers have low average incomes ($25,000 to $30,000), poor credit histories, and have often repeatedly sought credit in the months leading up to taking out a payday loan.\615\ Given the overlap in the set of firms offering these loans, the similar pricing of the products, and certain similarities in the structure of the products (e.g., the high cost and the synchronization of payment due dates with borrower paydays or next deposits of income), the Bureau finds that the characteristics and circumstances of payday installment borrowers are likely to be very similar to those of short-term payday borrowers. To the extent data is available limited to payday installment borrowers, the data confirms this view.

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    \615\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2013 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households'' at 15-17 (Oct. 2014), available at https://www.fdic.gov/https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013/householdsurvey/2013/. See also Gregory Elliehausen, ``An Analysis of Consumers' Use of Payday Loans,'' at 27 (Geo. Wash. Sch. of Bus., Monograph No. 41, 2009), available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237554300_AN_ANALYSIS_OF_CONSUMERS%27_USE_OF_PAYDAY_LOANS (61percent of borrowers have household income under $40,000); Jonathan Zinman, ``Restricting Consumer Credit Access: Household Survey Evidence on Effects Around the Oregon Rate Cap,'' (Dartmouth College, 2008), available at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jzinman/Papers/

    Zinman_RestrictingAccess_oct08.pdf.

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    For example, from a study of over one million high-cost loans made by four payday installment lenders, both storefront and online, median borrower gross annual income was reported to be $35,057.\616\ Similarly, administrative data from Colorado and Illinois indicate that 60 percent of the payday installment borrowers in those States have income of $30,000 or below. And a study of online payday installment borrowers, using data from a specialty consumer reporting agency, found a median income of $30,000 and an average VantageScore of 523; each of these was essentially identical as between the levels for storefront payday borrowers and for online payday borrowers.\617\

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    \616\ Howard Beales & Anand Goel, ``Small Dollar Installment Loans: An Empirical Analysis,'' at 12 tbl. 1 (Geo. Wash. Sch. of Bus., 2015), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2581667.

    \617\ nonPrime101, ``Report 8: Can Storefront Payday Borrowers Become Installment Loan Borrowers?,'' at 5, 7 (2015), available at https://www.nonprime101.com/blog/can-storefront-payday-borrowers-become-installment-loan-borrowers/.

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    The information about vehicle title borrowers that the Bureau has reviewed does not distinguish between single-payment and installment vehicle title borrowers. For the same reasons that the Bureau concludes that the demographic data with respect to short-term payday borrowers can be extrapolated to payday installment borrowers, the Bureau also finds that the demographic data is likely to be similar as between short-term vehicle title borrowers and vehicle title installment borrowers. As discussed above, vehicle-title borrowers across all categories tend to be low-income or moderate-income, with 56 percent having reported incomes below $30,000, and are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities or members of female-headed households.\618\

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    \618\ Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., ``2013 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households: Appendices,'' at appendix. D-

    12a (Oct. 2014), available at https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013/2013appendix.pdf.; Kathryn Fritzdixon et al., ``Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law Behavior and Economics of Title Lending Markets,'' 2014 U. IL L. Rev. 1013, at 1029-1030 (2014).

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    2. Circumstances of Borrowing

    Again, less data is available that focuses specifically on the circumstances of borrowing for users of payday installment and vehicle title installment loans than is available for short-term loans, and the data must be approached with some caution, since studies that seek to examine why consumers took out liquidity loans or for what purpose face a number of challenges. For example, any survey that asks about past behavior or events runs the risk of recall errors, and the fact that money is fungible makes this question even more complicated. For example, a consumer who has an unexpected expense may not feel the full effect until weeks later, depending on the timing of the unexpected expense relative to other expenses and the receipt of income. In that circumstance, a borrower may say that she took out the loan because of an emergency or may say instead that the loan was taken out to cover regular expenses.

    A 2012 survey of over 1,100 users of alternative small-dollar credit products asked borrowers separately about what precipitated the loan and what they used the loan proceeds for.\619\ Responses were reported for ``very short term'' and ``short term'' credit, with ``short term'' referring to non-bank installment loans and vehicle title loans.\620\ The most common reason borrowers gave for taking out ``short term'' credit (approximately 36 percent of respondents) was ``I had a bill for an unexpected expense (e.g., medical emergency, car broke down).'' About 23 percent of respondents said ``I had a payment due before my paycheck arrived,'' which the authors of the report on the survey results interpret as a mismatch in the timing of income and expenses, and a similar number said their general living expenses were consistently more than their income. The use of funds most commonly identified was to pay for routine expenses, with nearly 30 percent reporting ``pay utility bills'' and about 20 percent reporting ``general living expenses,'' but about 25 percent said the use of the money was ``car-related,'' either purchase or repair. In contrast, participants who took out ``very short term'' products such as payday and deposit advance products were somewhat more likely to cite ``I had a bill or payment due before my paycheck arrived,'' or that their general living expenses were consistently more than their incomes as compared to respondents who took out ``short term'' products, though unexpected expenses were also cited by about 30 percent of the ``very short term'' respondents. More than 40 percent of ``very short term'' respondents also reported using the funds to pay for routine expenses, including both paying utility bills and general living expenses.

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    \619\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

    \620\ ``Very short term'' referred to payday, pawn, and deposit advance products offered by depository institutions. Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' at 4 (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

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    Page 54582

    b. Lender Practices

    1. Loan Structure

    As stated in the proposal, some longer-term payday installment loans and vehicle title loans are structured either to be repaid in a single lump-sum payment or to require a large balloon payment, often as a final payment of all principal due following a series of smaller interest-only payments. Unsurprisingly, many consumers find making such a payment as challenging as making the single payment under a traditional, two-week payday loan, and such loans frequently result in default or re-borrowing.

    2. Failure To Assess Ability To Repay

    Many lenders making longer-term balloon-payment loans--like lenders making other types of longer-term loans--have constructed a business model that allow them to offer loans profitably despite very high loan-

    level and sequence-level default rates. Rather than assessing whether borrowers will have the ability to repay the loans, these lenders engage in limited up-front screening to detect potential fraud and other ``first payment defaults,'' and otherwise rely heavily on loan features and practices that result in consumers continuing to make payments beyond the point at which they are affordable. These lenders do not seek to prevent those with expenses chronically exceeding income from taking on additional obligations in the form of payday installment or similar loans. Lending to borrowers who cannot repay their loans would generally not be profitable in a traditional lending market, but the key features of these loans--leveraged payment mechanisms, vehicle security, and high cost--turn the traditional model on its head. These product features significantly reduce lenders' interest in ensuring that payments under a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan are within the consumer's ability to repay.

    Some of these consumers may repay the entire loan at the expense of suffering adverse consequences in their inability to keep up with basic living expenses or major financial obligations. Others end up defaulting on their loans at a point later than would otherwise be the case, thus allowing lenders to extract additional revenue on the way ultimately to the same adverse result. Product features that make this possible include the ability to withdraw payments directly from a borrower's deposit account or the leverage derived from the ability to repossess the borrower's means of transportation to work and for other everyday activities. The effect is especially strong when the lender times the loan payments to coincide with deposits of the consumer's periodic income into the account. In these cases, lenders can succeed in extracting payments from the consumer's account even if they are not affordable to the consumer. The lender's risk of default is reduced, and the point at which default ultimately occurs is delayed. As a result, the lender's incentive to invest time or effort into determining whether the consumer will have the ability to make the loan payments is greatly diminished.

    c. Harms Spurred by Balloon-Payment Loan Structures

    When these features are combined with a balloon-payment structure, lenders can operate, presumably at a profit, even when borrowers are defaulting on 50 percent of loan sequences. The circumstances of the borrowers and the structure of the loans that require a large balloon payment to be made all at once can lead to dramatic negative outcomes for many borrowers who receive unaffordable loans because the lender does not reasonably assess their ability to repay. The Bureau is particularly concerned about the harms associated with re-borrowing and refinancing; harms associated with default, including vehicle repossession or the loss of a deposit account; and harms that flow from borrowers forgoing basic living expenses or defaulting on other major financial obligations as a result of making unaffordable payments on such loans.

    In the CFPB Report on Supplemental Findings, the Bureau analyzed several aspects of the re-borrowing and refinancing behavior of borrowers who take out vehicle title installment loans. For a longer-

    term loan with a balloon payment due at the end, the data analyzed by the Bureau demonstrated a large increase in borrowing around the time of the balloon payment, relative to loans without a balloon-payment feature. Further, for loans with a balloon payment, the re-borrowing was much more likely to occur around the time the balloon payment came due and consumers were less likely to take cash out, suggesting that the unaffordability of the balloon payment is the primary or sole reason for the re-borrowing or refinancing.

    Specifically, about 60 percent of balloon-payment installment loans resulted in refinancing, re-borrowing, or default. In contrast, nearly 60 percent of comparable fully-amortizing installment loans were repaid without refinancing or re-borrowing. Moreover, the re-borrowing often only deepened the consumer's financial distress.

    Balloon payments were not only associated with a sharp uptick in re-borrowing, but also with increased incidence of default. Notably, the default rate for balloon-payment vehicle title installment loans that the Bureau analyzed was about three times higher than the default rate for comparable fully-amortizing vehicle title installment loans offered by the same lender.

    In addition to the harms discussed above, the Bureau is concerned that borrowers who take out these loans may experience other financial hardships as a result of making payments on unaffordable loans. Even if there are sufficient funds in the account, extraction of the payment through leveraged payment mechanisms or vehicle security places control of the timing of the payment with the lender, leading to the risk that the borrower's remaining funds will not cover their other expenses or obligations. The resulting harms are wide-ranging and, almost by definition, can be quite extreme. Consumers may experience knock-on effects from their failure to meet these other obligations, such as additional fees to resume utility services or late fees on other obligations. This risk is further heightened when lenders time the loan payment due dates to coincide with the consumer's receipt of income, which is typically the case.

    Furthermore, even if the consumer's account lacks sufficient funds available to cover the required loan payment, the lender still may be able to collect the payment from the consumer's bank by putting the account into an overdraft position. Where that occurs, the consumer will incur overdraft fees and, at many banks, extended overdraft fees. When new funds are deposited into the account, those funds will go to repay the overdraft and not be available to the consumer for other expenses or obligations. Thus, at least certain types of covered longer-term loans--in particular, long-term balloon-payment loans--

    carry a high degree of risk that if the payment proves unaffordable, the consumer will still be forced to repay the loan and incur further adverse effects, such as penalty fees or legal actions such as vehicle repossession or eviction.

    The Bureau is not able to directly observe the harms borrowers suffer from making unaffordable payments. The presence of a leveraged payment mechanism or vehicle security, however, each make it highly likely that borrowers who are struggling to pay back the loan will suffer these harms. The very high rates of default on these

    Page 54583

    loans means that many borrowers do struggle to repay these loans, and it is therefore reasonable to infer that many borrowers are also suffering harms from making unaffordable payments.\621\

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    \621\ Wage assignments represent a particularly extreme form of a lender taking the control of a borrower's funds away from a borrower. When wages are assigned to the lender, the lender does not even need to go through the process of submitting a request for payment to the borrower's financial institution; the money is simply forwarded to the lender without ever passing through the borrower's hands. The Bureau is concerned that where loan agreements provide for wage assignments, a lender can continue to obtain payment as long as the consumer receives income, even if the consumer does not have the ability to repay the loan while meeting her major financial obligations and basic living expenses. This concern applies equally to contract provisions that would require the consumer to repay the loan through payroll deductions or deductions from other sources of income, as such provisions would operate in essentially the same way to extract unaffordable payments. These approaches raise concerns that go beyond the scope of this rule, and the Bureau will continue to scrutinize the use of wage assignments in connection with longer-

    term loans not addressed by the final rule, using its supervision and enforcement authority to identify and address unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.

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    d. Consumer Expectations and Understanding

    The Bureau is concerned about these negative consequences for consumers that flow from covered longer-term balloon-payment loans made without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay, because there is strong reason to believe that consumers do not understand the likelihood of the risk that such loans will prove unaffordable or the likelihood and extent of the adverse collateral consequences of such unaffordable loans.

    As an initial matter, the Bureau finds that many consumers fail to understand that lenders making longer-term balloon-payment loans--like lenders making other types of longer-term loans--do not evaluate their ability to repay their loans and instead have built business models that tolerate default rates well in excess of 30 percent, even after many consumers have incurred the further costs of re-borrowing. While the Bureau is unaware of any borrower surveys in these two markets, these two conditions are directly contrary to the practices of lenders in nearly all other credit markets--including other subprime lenders.

    The Bureau has observed that most borrowers are unlikely to take out a loan they expect to default on, and hence the fact that at least one in three sequences ends in default strongly suggests that borrowers do not understand the degree of risk to which they are exposed with regard to such negative outcomes as default or loss of their vehicle, re-borrowing in connection with unaffordable loans, or having to forgo basic living expenses or major financial obligations. Even if consumers did understand that lenders offering longer-term balloon-payment loans were largely uninterested in their ability to repay, consumers would still be hindered in their ability to anticipate the risks associated with these loans. As discussed above, most borrowers taking out longer-

    term loans are already in financial distress.\622\ Many have had a recent unexpected expense, like a car repair or a decline in income, or they may have chronic problems in making ends meet. Even when not facing a crisis, research shows that consumers tend to underestimate their near-term expenditures \623\ and, when estimating how much financial ``slack'' they will have in the future, discount even the expenditures they do expect to incur.\624\ Consumers also tend to underestimate volatility in their own earnings and expenses, especially the risk of unusually low income or high expenses. Such optimism bias tends to have a greater effect when consumers are projecting their income and expenses over longer periods.\625\ Finally, in addition to gaps in consumer expectations about the likelihood that these loans will generally prove unaffordable, the Bureau observes that consumers underestimate the potential damage from default such as secondary fees, loss of vehicle or loss of account, which may tend to cause consumers to underestimate degree of harm that could occur if a loan proved unaffordable.

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    \622\ Rob Levy & Joshua Sledge, ``A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers,'' at 12 chart 3 (Ctr. for Fin. Servs. Innovation, 2012), available at https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2012/A%20Complex%20Portrait.pdf.

    \623\ Gulden Ulkuman et al., ``Will I Spend More in 12 Months or a Year? The Effects of Ease of Estimation and Confidence on Budget Estimates,'' 35 J. of Consumer Research 245, at 245-246 (2008).; Johanna Peetz & Roger Buehler, ``Is the A Budget Fallacy? The Role of Savings Goals in the Prediction of Personal Spending,'' 34 Personality and Social Psychol. Bull. 1579 (2009); Johanna Peetz & Roger Buehler, ``When Distance Pays Off: The Role of Construal Level in Spending,'' Predictions, 48 J. of Experimental Soc. Psychol. 395 (2012).

    \624\ Jonathan Z. Bermann et al., ``2015 Expense Neglect in Forecasting Personal Finances,'' 53 J. of Marketing Res. 535 (2016).

    \625\ As noted elsewhere, this discussion is not dependent on a particular endorsement of the tenets of behavioral economics and is likewise consistent with economic models based on rational expectations as applied in the circumstances of the kinds of situations faced by the borrowers of such loans.

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    In sum, the Bureau's analysis of longer-term balloon-payment loans, as supplemented by its analysis of related types of longer-term loans, indicates that many consumers are unable to appreciate the likelihood of the risk and the magnitude of the harm they face from such loans if they are made on unaffordable terms. This is likely to be the case, in particular, with covered longer-term balloon-payment loans made without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay the loan according to its terms.

    Section 1041.4 Identification of Unfair and Abusive Practice--

    Underwriting Preliminary Discussion on Covered Longer-Term Balloon-

    Payment Loans

    The bulk of the Bureau's analysis below is tailored toward covered short-term loans because those loans are the Bureau's primary source of concern, and the market for which the Bureau has the most evidence. However, the Bureau's statement of the unfair and abusive practice in Sec. 1041.4 of the final rule also encompasses covered longer-term balloon-payment loans as defined in Sec. 1041.2(a)(7) of the final rule. Accordingly, these loans, like covered short-term loans, are subject to both the underwriting and payment requirements of the final rule.

    The Bureau does not believe that currently there is a particularly large market for these loans, which is why most of the Bureau's evidence is focused on covered short-term loans. But as described above in Market Concerns--Underwriting, where the Bureau has observed covered longer-term loans involving balloon payments for which the lender does not assess borrowers' ability to repay before making the loan, it has seen the same type of consumer harms and other circumstances that the Bureau has observed when lenders fail to assess ability to repay before making covered short-term loans. Indeed, the Bureau's analysis of longer-term balloon-payment loans in the market for vehicle title loans found that borrowers experienced high default rates--notably higher than for similar loans with amortizing installment payments.\626\

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    \626\ Rather than elongate the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.4 by engaging in a separate and distinct analysis of each prong of unfairness and abusiveness for covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans, the Bureau would simply note that much of the general analysis is basically the same, except that the substantial risks and harms to consumers of high levels of re-borrowing with unaffordable covered short-term loans would be analogized to the substantial risks and harms to consumers of high levels of defaults with unaffordable covered longer-term balloon-payment loans.

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    If the Bureau were to finalize this rule without including longer-

    term balloon-payment loans, it also has great concern that the market for longer-term balloon-

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    payment loans, which is currently quite small, could expand dramatically if lenders were to begin to make efforts to circumvent its provisions by making these loans without assessing borrowers' ability to repay. The result would be that the same type of unfair and abusive practice (just with a slightly different credit product) would persist and impose similar harms on consumers.

    This scenario is also more than mere speculation. The Military Lending Act was enacted in 2006 and imposed a 36 percent interest-rate cap on certain loans made to servicemembers and their dependents.\627\ Rules to implement its provisions were adopted,\628\ and the small-

    dollar loan industry, in particular, went to some lengths to circumvent the provisions of those rules by making changes in their loan products, such as modifying terms and conditions and extending the duration of such loans.\629\ The resulting evasion of the rules was successful enough that Congress found it necessary to revisit the law and direct that new rules be adopted to close loopholes that the prior rules had created, which had undermined the purposes of the Act.\630\ The new regulations were adopted in July 2015 and are now in effect.\631\

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    \627\ Public Law 109-364, 120 Stat. 2266 (2006).

    \628\ 72 FR 50580 (Aug. 31, 2007).

    \629\ 79 FR 58602, 58602-06 (Sept. 29, 2014).

    \630\ Public Law 112-239, 126 Stat. 1785 (2013).

    \631\ 80 FR 43560 (July 22, 2015).

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    The fact of this recent experience in this very industry underscores the Bureau's concern that applying the underwriting criteria of this rule to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans is necessary to effectuate its purpose to protect consumers. This point reinforces the Bureau's view, based on the limited evidence of the small size of the market currently existing for these loans, that the analysis below would apply to covered longer-term balloon-payment loans as well as to covered short-term loans if that market were to expand. Thus, the Bureau has made the judgment to similarly regulate covered longer-term balloon-payment loans.

    The Bureau did not receive many comments on just the specific portion of the Bureau's proposal about covered longer-term loans involving balloon payments. However, the Bureau did receive a few. Several industry commenters stated that the Bureau's concerns about re-

    borrowing for covered longer-term loans should have focused primarily on loans with balloon payments, and argued that any restrictions should thus be limited to balloon-payment loans. These commenters were correct that the Bureau's concerns regarding re-borrowing, which are similar to the Bureau's concerns regarding covered short-term loans, were focused primarily on covered longer-term balloon-payment loans. This is one of the reasons why the Bureau is finalizing only this portion of the proposal involving covered longer-term loans, and provides further support for the Bureau's conclusion that the analysis below relating to covered short-term loans is applicable to covered longer-term balloon-

    payment loans as well. Having addressed this issue here, the remainder of the discussion in this section of the unfair and abusive practice of making loans without reasonably assessing the borrower's ability to repay the loan according to its terms will focus exclusively on covered short-term loans.

    The Bureau's Approach in the Proposal

    As the Bureau noted in the proposal, it is standard practice in most consumer lending markets for lenders to assess whether a consumer has the ability to repay a loan before making the loan. In certain markets, Federal law requires this.\632\ The Bureau did not propose to make a determination whether, as a general rule for all kinds of credit, it is an unfair or abusive practice for any lender to make a loan without making such a determination. Nor did the Bureau propose to resolve that question in this rulemaking. Rather, the focus of the subpart B of the proposed rule was on a more specific set of loans that the Bureau has carefully studied, as discussed in more detail above in part II and in Market Concerns--Underwriting. Based on the evidence presented in the proposal, and pursuant to its authority under section 1031(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau proposed to identify it as both an unfair practice and an abusive practice for a lender to make a covered short-term loan without reasonably determining that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan under its explicit authority to prescribe rules for ``the purpose of preventing unfair and abusive acts or practices.'' \633\

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    \632\ See, e.g., Dodd-Frank Act section 1411, codified at 15 U.S.C. 1639c(a)(1); CARD Act, 15 U.S.C. 1665e; HPML Rule, 73 FR 44522, 44543 (July 30, 2008). In addition, the OCC has issued numerous guidance documents about the potential for legal liability and reputational risk connected with lending that does not take account of borrowers' ability to repay. See OCC Advisory Letter 2003-3, Avoiding Predatory and Abusive Lending Practices in Brokered and Purchased Loans (Feb. 21, 2003), available at http://www.occ.gov/static/news-issuances/memos-advisory-letters/2003/advisory-letter-2003-3.pdf; FDIC, Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70552 (Nov. 26, 2013); OCC, Guidance on Supervisory Concerns and Expectations Regarding Deposit Advance Products, 78 FR 70624 (Nov. 26, 2013).

    \633\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(b).

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    In this specific context, ``ability to repay'' was defined in the proposal to mean that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan without re-borrowing and while meeting the consumer's major financial obligations and basic living expenses. The Bureau had made preliminary findings and reached preliminary conclusions about the unfairness and the abusiveness of making these loans without such a reasonable determination, based on the specific evidence cited in the proposal, which is discussed further below as well as above in part II and Market Concerns--Underwriting. The Bureau sought comment on the evidence it had presented on these issues and on the preliminary findings and conclusions it had reached in the proposal. It also sought comment on whether making the kinds of loans that meet the conditions set forth in the proposed exemption--conditions that are specifically designed as an alternative means to protect consumers against the harms that can result from unaffordable loans--should not be regarded as an unfair or abusive practice.

    General Comments

    The Bureau received a number of general comments about the Bureau's use of its authority to prohibit unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (``UDAAP''). The Bureau addresses those more general comments here, but specific comments on the prongs of unfairness or abusiveness are found below.

    Some industry participants suggested that an act or practice can only be deemed unfair, deceptive, or abusive if there is a strong element of wrongdoing or a sense that an unconscionable advantage has been taken, which they asserted did not exist.

    Many industry participants and trade associations attacked the factual foundation set forth in the proposal as inadequate. And they took particular issue with the framing of the proposal as resting on what they viewed as mere assertions and presuppositions, not clearly grounded in factual findings, as reflected in certain phrasings and characterizations (or even ``slogans''). They further viewed this preliminary foundation for the proposal as reflecting bias or prejudgment on the part of the Bureau that improperly colored its approach to these issues.

    Page 54585

    Industry participants and trade associations also highlighted the Bureau's observation made in the proposal that ``the evidence on the effects on consumers of access to storefront payday loans is mixed.'' They argued that the Bureau cannot rest any rulemaking that imposes a substantial market intervention, including UDAAP rulemakings, on mixed evidence that is not more clearly definitive of the key points at issue. Accordingly, these commenters again contended that the Bureau was resting its proposed rule on an insufficient factual threshold.

    Bank and credit union commenters, among others, suggested that the Bureau either lacked--or had failed to provide--data to support the application of the abusiveness standard (or more broadly, the UDAAP standard) in context of the kinds of short-term loans they provide, which would be covered loans under the proposal. Here again, one commenter cited the Bureau's reliance on ``a set of preliminary findings'' and what it ``believes'' to be true as indicative of the Bureau's lack of supporting data. Another suggested that loans made by community banks that are covered under the proposed rule are not predatory and do not perpetuate a cycle of indebtedness. This commenter noted that community banks have developed a business model that does not rely on rolling over loans and churning fees, that they underwrite all of their own small loans, and that default and vehicle repossession rates associated with these loans are very small. These commenters thus asserted that the Bureau lacks evidence to demonstrate that their practices associated with these loans are unfair, deceptive or abusive. For these and other reasons, community bank and credit union commenters strongly advocated for the Bureau to use its exemption authority to ensure that their lending activities would not be covered under the terms of any final rule, either in whole or in part.

    Similarly, commenters asserted that the Bureau was acting improperly by resting the proposed rule on its mere ``beliefs'' and preliminary findings, rather than holding off until the Bureau was in a position to render definitive conclusions on the main points at issue. In particular, they contended that UDAAP rules governing these covered loans could not validly be enacted until after the Bureau makes definitive rulings based on evidence and fact.

    Some commenters, comprising both industry participants and trade associations, argued that the Dodd-Frank Act does not authorize the Bureau to ban a ``product,'' but only to ``prescribe rules'' identifying unlawful UDAAP ``acts or practices.'' One industry commenter argued that the Bureau had mischaracterized or ignored relevant legal precedent that controls how the Bureau must interpret its UDAAP authority under the Dodd-Frank Act, going so far as to say that Bureau lawyers had a professional responsibility to correct the record, and arguing that the Bureau does not have the authority to invalidate entire contracts or whole products. Other commenters argued that the proposed rule was overbroad insofar as it rested on the sweeping conclusion that all alternative underwriting approaches would be unable to pass muster under the unfair or abusive standards laid out in the statute. Further, they contended that the proposed rule would largely eliminate payday and title loans, which are sources of credit that many consumers have long relied on, all of which would exceed the Bureau's statutory mandate. One commenter also made the point that the Bureau's proposal seemed inconsistent with the statutory objective of leveling the playing field for all competitors of consumer financial products by addressing the perceived unfairness of regulating just these covered loans without addressing all of the products that may have similar or equivalent features.

    Many industry participants and trade associations submitted comments that attacked the broader legal authority of the Bureau to propose any rule governing these types of short-term loans, especially a rule under its UDAAP authority. A few of them argued that the Bureau's authority is narrowly constrained because the Truth in Lending Act and its implementing regulations provide a pervasive regulatory framework to govern consumer credit transactions. Others argued that when Congress intended to impose ability-to-repay requirements on specific lending markets, it did so explicitly by statute (as it did with mortgages and credit cards), but it did not confer such explicit authority on the Bureau to regulate payday and title loans in this manner. As a consequence, these commenters maintained that the expressio unius canon of statutory construction applies to deny the Bureau any such regulatory authority.

    Some commenters stated views that conflicted with those set out above. One trade association, in particular, stated that Congress plainly recognized the problems created by unregulated and less regulated lenders, and for that reason conferred on the Bureau new authority to supervise and write rules for the payday lending industry for the first time ever at the Federal level. More generally, consumer groups were strongly supportive of the Bureau's legal authority to develop and finalize the proposed rule. Rather than viewing other ability-to-repay provisions in Federal consumer law as implied negative restrictions on the Bureau's authority, these commenters pointed to them and others (such as the Military Lending Act) as embodying a considerable trend of expanding public policy now supporting the principle that consumer lending generally should be premised on the borrower's ability to repay. They noted that, along with recent Federal law on mortgage and credit card lending, certain States now embody this principle in statute, and many more do so by judicial precedent. They noted that general statements of this principle in Federal and State law tend to define this approach as requiring the lender to establish the borrower's ability to repay the loan while meeting basic living expenses and without re-borrowing.

    Approach in the Final Rule and Changes to Language in Sec. 1041.4

    The terms ``unfair'' and ``abusive'' are defined terms in the Dodd-

    Frank Act with multiple prongs. Under the Act, the Bureau cannot determine an act or practice to be unlawful unless ``the Bureau has a reasonable basis to conclude'' that the act or practice ``causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers'' and ``such substantial injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.'' \634\ The Bureau is expressly authorized to ``consider established public policies as evidence'' in ``determining whether an act or practice is unfair.'' \635\ An ``abusive'' act or practice is defined, among other things, as one that ``takes unreasonable advantage of (A) a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the product or service; or of (B) the inability of the consumer to protect the interests of the consumer in selecting or using a consumer financial product or service.'' \636\

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    \634\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(c)(1).

    \635\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(c)(2).

    \636\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(2)(A) and (B).

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    In the proposal, each of the specified prongs of these two terms defined in the statute was discussed separately. Hence the comments that were submitted on these specific legal grounds regarding the Bureau's approach can be presented and addressed in this format as well,

    Page 54586

    and that discussion is contained in the following sections. But the more general comments on the Bureau's legal approach to developing ability-to-repay rules under UDAAP to govern covered short-term loans, as those comments were summarized above, can be directly addressed here.

    To begin with, the commenters' suggestion that an act or practice can only be deemed unfair, deceptive, or abusive if there is a strong element of wrongdoing or a sense that an unconscionable advantage has been taken is a mischaracterization of the Bureau's UDAAP authority as prescribed by law. Although public policy is a factor that the Bureau may consider for purposes of identifying unfairness, both the unfairness and abusiveness standards rest upon well-defined elements in the Dodd-Frank Act, and a sense of wrongdoing or unconscionability is not one of them. In fact, the FTC and Congress have explicitly rejected the notion that agencies should be measuring whether an act is ``immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous'' or consistent with public policy to make unfairness findings.\637\ An abusive practice may require that the person take ``unreasonable advantage'' of various conditions,\638\ but that does not require any sense of unconscionability. The commenters do not offer any compelling justification for their position that the Bureau should, or even is authorized to, supplement the specific statutory prongs that Congress adopted to define the terms ``unfair'' and ``abusive'' with these additional and loose concepts that were not incorporated in the statute. Congress was undoubtedly aware of the unconscionability standard when it passed the Consumer Financial Protection Act, and it did not use the language of unconscionability to limit the unfairness or abusiveness standards.

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    \637\ J. Howard Beales, Former Dir. of Bureau of Consumer Prot., ``The FTC's Use of Unfairness Authority: Its Rise, Fall, and Resurrection,'' The Marketing and Public Policy Conference (May 30, 2003).

    \638\ Though taking ``unreasonable advantage'' is not a prerequisite for an abusiveness finding if a company ``materially interferes with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or condition of a consumer financial product or service.'' 12 U.S.C. 5531(d)(1).

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    Some commenters attacked various preliminary findings and conclusions set forth in the proposal by reacting to language in the proposed rule conveying that, as is true of any proposed notice-and-

    comment rulemaking, the Bureau always planned to wait to formulate and support its final conclusions only after receiving feedback on its proposal. The Bureau appropriately noted that various factual statements, observations, or conclusions made in the proposal were to be regarded as tentative until they could be and had been evaluated in light of comments and supporting information received through the entire rulemaking process. In fact, the Bureau is required by law to consider and analyze the comments received before deciding whether and how to finalize any regulations. As described in the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1014.4 and this preamble, now that the Bureau has had the opportunity to consider the high volume of input that it has received from all stakeholders, including extensive individual involvement by members of the public, it is in a position to articulate and justify the types of formal and definitive conclusions necessary to support the final rule. The factual recitation presented above in the discussion of Market Concerns--Underwriting embodies the Bureau's presentation of and response to commenters' specific points that were raised about these factual issues. The fact that the Bureau had presented some of its views in the proposal as tentative thus is not improper and was entirely appropriate at that preliminary stage of the rulemaking process.

    Some commenters took virtually the opposite tack, objecting to statements made in the proposal, or made by the Bureau in the course of wide-ranging discussions on other occasions, as suggesting bias and prejudgment of certain issues underlying the proposed rule. These objections seem to lack foundation or to be based on statements taken out of context, given the considerable efforts the Bureau has undertaken to process, analyze, and digest the heavy volume of comments received and be responsive to them on the merits in formulating the final rule. The Bureau bases its UDAAP findings on the evidence and conclusions as discussed and now adopted in this section and in Market Concerns--Underwriting. Those findings are more explicitly laid out below when describing the comments and analysis that are applicable to the distinct unfairness and abusiveness prongs.

    As to the statement that the Bureau based its views on ``mixed'' evidence, in the proposal the Bureau stated that ``in reviewing the existing literature, the Bureau believes that the evidence on the impacts of the availability of payday loans on consumer welfare is mixed. A reasonable synthesis appears to be that payday loans benefit consumers in certain circumstances, such as when they are hit by a transitory shock to income or expenses, but that in more general circumstances access to these loans makes consumer worse off. The Bureau reiterates the point made earlier that the proposed rule would not ban payday or other covered short-term loans, and believes that covered short-term loans would still be available in States that allow them to consumers facing a truly short-term need for credit.'' In other words, the Bureau did not simply rest its preliminary findings on its determination to take one side of a debate. Instead, the Bureau analyzed the evidence, which naturally differed on methodology and subjects studied, and synthesized it into a preliminary view that payday loans benefit some consumers in certain circumstances, but generally leave many other consumers worse off, while noting that many of the consumers who benefited would still be able to access payday loans under the provisions of the proposed rule.

    The Bureau finds that the comments received from banks and credit unions and their trade associations were generally well taken. Many bank and credit union loans are likely not covered by the final rule, because the Bureau is not finalizing the proposals on longer-term small-dollar loans at this time. And to the extent that community banks and credit unions make loans that would otherwise be covered on an accommodation basis for their customers, the Bureau's use of its exemption authority in the final rule assures that these loans also will not be covered (of course, nonbanks making accommodation loans would similarly be exempt).

    The Bureau agrees that much of the evidence it reviewed related to loans made by nonbanks, and not banks. However, the Bureau did review evidence relating to Deposit Advance Products, made by banks, and concluded that it was consistent with the evidence the Bureau had on nonbank covered loans. Further, there appears to be no logical reason to believe that covered short-term loans, made without assessing borrowers' ability to repay, would impact consumers differently depending on the lender's charter. The Bureau thus concludes that based on the evidence it reviewed, it is appropriate to apply this rule to the banks and credit unions that are engaged in making covered loans that do not fall within the exemptions provided in the final rule. Doing so is consistent with the Bureau's objective of ensuring that ``Federal consumer financial law is enforced consistently, without regard to the status of a person

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    as a depository institution, in order to promote fair competition.'' \639\

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    \639\ 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(4).

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    With respect to the commenter that viewed the Bureau's proposal as inconsistent with the implicit statutory objective of leveling the playing field for all competitors of consumer financial products because it regulates covered loans without addressing every product that may have similar or equivalent features, the objection is unpersuasive. The Bureau is not required to write rules that cover every product or market all at once, and has the authority to prioritize taking action as it deems appropriate, so long as it has the data and justification for doing so for each instance. For example, the final rule does not cover the underwriting of longer-term loans. This rulemaking also does not cover overdraft services on deposit accounts. Both of those products are distinct from covered short-term loans and may be the subject of separate rulemaking efforts, as well as remaining subject to the Bureau's oversight through the exercise of its supervisory and enforcement authority.

    For commenters who argued that the proposed rule was a misuse of the Bureau's prevention authority, or was too harsh and too prescriptive so as to be disproportionate to the evidence of harm to consumers that the Bureau presented in the proposal, several responses are in order. The initial question is whether the Bureau can show in this final rule that in identifying the practice described in Sec. 1041.4 as unfair and abusive, the Bureau acted within the scope of its express legal authority to adopt rules to identify and prevent unfair and abusive acts or practices--a topic that is covered in detail in the following sections. Comments about whether the proposed ability-to-

    repay requirements are consistent with the Bureau's prevention authority are addressed in more detail below in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.5.

    The Bureau's determination that the failure of a lender to reasonably determine the consumer's ability to repay a covered short-

    term or longer-term balloon-payment loan according to its terms meets the statutory prongs of the Bureau's ``unfair'' or ``abusive'' authority, as discussed further in the following sections, and thus the Bureau is not imposing a ban on any ``product'' but instead is simply prescribing rules to prevent the acts or practices so identified.

    The Bureau does not agree with commenters who suggest that the proposed underwriting rules would effectively have banned lenders from making covered loans. The Bureau continues to believe that even under the underwriting rules contained in the proposal, lenders would have been able to continue to make loans to consumers who, in fact, had the ability to repay those loans. In any event, the Bureau has reconsidered certain aspects of the ability-to-repay underwriting provisions presented in the proposal, in response to substantive comments that were received on various details of the proposed underwriting approach, which provisions are being implemented in a somewhat modified form in Sec. 1041.5 below; and the Bureau is finalizing the alternative framework that it has presented for making such loans without all the underwriting criteria specified in Sec. 1041.5, subject to a cap on how much lending could be achieved within this framework. For more details, see the Section 1022(b)(2) Analysis in part VII below and the section-by-section analysis for Sec. 1041.5 of the final rule.

    More generally, the Bureau's rule does not invalidate whole products.\640\ Section 1041.4 identifies an unfair and abusive practice in the market--the making of covered short-term and longer-term loans without reasonably determining borrowers' ability to repay the loans according to their terms. Other sections of the rule, including Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.6, are intended to prevent that existing practice and the associated harms. This approach to UDAAP rulemaking (identification and then prevention) is a consistent and straightforward application of UDAAP precedent, as discussed further in part IV above.

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    \640\ Commenters seem to believe that because section 1036(a)(1)(A) of the Dodd-Frank Act states it is unlawful to ``offer or provide to a consumer any financial product or service not in conformity with Federal consumer financial law,'' and section 1036(a)(1)(B) separately states that it is unlawful ``to engage in any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice,'' that Congress intended to limit the Bureau's UDAAP authority such that it could not be used to ban or invalidate products or services. This reading ignores the definition of Federal consumer financial law, which includes the Dodd-Frank Act itself and ``any rule or order prescribed by the Bureau under the Dodd-Frank Act,'' which includes the prohibition against UDAAP as well as UDAAP rules. 12 U.S.C. 5481(14). Thus, the clear meaning of section 1036(a)(1)(A) is to make it unlawful to ``offer or provide to a consumer any financial product or service not in conformity'' with the prohibition against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in section 1036(a)(1)(B).

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    As to whether the specified components of the ability-to-repay determinations are disproportionate to the risks posed by such lending, the law does not impose any such proportionality test, as long as the statutory prongs of unfairness and abusiveness are met and the remedy imposed bears a reasonable relationship to addressing the identified practice. Nonetheless, it is again relevant here that, as explained in detail below in the section-by-section analysis of Sec. 1041.5, the final rule has incorporated changes in the specified underwriting criteria to harmonize them more closely with those applicable to credit cards and to render them less demanding than the ability-to-repay test used for making mortgage loans. In particular, the Bureau has reconsidered certain aspects of the ability-to-repay underwriting criteria presented in the proposal in response to substantive comments that were received on various details of its proposed approach, and as a result these criteria are being implemented in a somewhat modified form in Sec. 1041.5 below to take account of and respond to these particular concerns raised by the commenters. In addition, the Bureau's proposal presented an alternative framework for making such loans, subject to a cap on how much lending could be achieved within this framework. That alternative framework is being adopted in the final rule, subject to certain modifications, as discussed further below in Sec. 1041.6. For these reasons, the Bureau concludes that the approach set forth in the final rule imposes a remedy that bears a reasonable relationship to addressing the unfair and abusive practice identified by the Bureau so that it does not persist in this market.

    With respect to the commenters who asserted that the TILA or any combination of Federal statutes and regulations impliedly divest the Bureau of the authority to propose any rule governing these types of short-term loans under its UDAAP authority, those provisions do not seem able to bear the weight of the argument. On the contrary, the Dodd-Frank Act plainly gave the Bureau the authority to ``prescribe rules'' identifying ``unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices'' that violate Federal law,\641\ even though Congress was well aware that the TILA, in particular, already was applicable to consumer financial products, such as the covered short-term loans addressed by this rule.

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    \641\ 12 U.S.C. 5531(b).

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    Nor has Congress given any indication that it intended to restrict the Bureau from adopting an underwriting approach for this loan market (ability-to-repay underwriting, which is based on the lender making a reasonable determination that the borrower will have the ability to repay the loan) that has found increasing Congressional

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    favor in other markets. The Bureau agrees with the commenters who took the view that Congress has plainly recognized the importance of these measures as a means of protecting consumers in two major consumer loan markets (credit cards and mortgages), which tends to support rather than undermine a finding that lending should be premised on the borrower's ability to repay in the market for these covered loans as well. Commenters arguing otherwise did not provide any case law in support of this argument, and the cases cited by a few commenters involved Congress expressly articulating its intent to limit an agency's authority in a particular manner, or an agency acting in a manner inconsistent with an express Congressional mandate. Neither applies here. Further the Bureau's action is not without precedent, as at least one other agency has issued rules to prevent unfair or deceptive practices through an ability-to-repay requirement. Before the Consumer Financial Protection Act was passed into law, the Federal Reserve Board issued a rule under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act imposing ability-to-repay requirements for mortgage lenders ``to prevent unfairness, deception, and abuse.'' \642\

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    \642\ 73 FR 44522, 44522-23 (July 30, 2008).

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    For these reasons, and as discussed further in the Bureau's analysis of each of the prongs of the statute addressed below, the Bureau is finalizing its conclusion that it is an unfair and abusive practice for a lender to make a covered short-term or longer-term balloon-payment loans without reasonably determining that the borrowers will have the ability to repay the loans according to their terms. The Bureau made four modifications to proposed Sec. 1041.4. The Bureau has added to the phrase ``ability to repay the loan'' the phrase ``according to its terms,'' such that the final statement of the unfair and abusive practice is, in part, the failure to assess that the consumer ``will have the ability to repay the loan according to its terms.'' The addition was meant to address a common misimpression conveyed by commenters. Many commenters claimed that borrowers who cannot pay an originated loan nonetheless do have an ability to repay because they can repay after some amount of re-borrowing. To further reflect the Bureau's intent, both now and at the stage of the proposal, that lenders should assess the borrower's ability to repay without re-

    borrowing, the Bureau has added the phrase ``according to its terms.''

    Second, the Bureau has added covered longer-term balloon-payment loans to the statement of the unfair and abusive practice, as noted above.

    Third, the Bureau added official commentary, at comment 4-1, clarifying that a lender who complies with Sec. 1041.5 in making a covered short-term loan or a covered longer-term balloon-payment loan has not committed the unfair and abusive practice under Sec. 1041.4. The comment further clarifies that a lender who complies with Sec. 1041.6 in making a covered short-term loan has not committed the unfair and abusive practice under Sec. 1041.4 and is not subject to Sec. 1041.5. This comment is added to clarify that the combination of Sec. Sec. 1041.5 and 1041.6 are the Bureau's intended method for preventing the practice in Sec. 1041.4, that loans made under Sec. 1041.6 are exempt from Sec. 1041.5, and thus, that if a lender complies with Sec. 1041.5 or Sec. 1041.6, a lender would not be in violation of Sec. 1041.4.

    Fourth, during inter-agency consultations, the Bureau received input from a Federal prudential regulator about the singular nature of the statement of the unfair and abusive practice. The regulator believed that supervisory or enforcement actions of this particular rule should be based on a pattern or practice of activity, rather than an isolated and inadvertent instance, which the regulator believed could deter responsible lenders from making covered loans. In the interest of inter-agency cooperation, the Bureau is adopting the suggestion to pluralize the statement of the unfair and abusive practice. Relatedly, the Bureau does not intend to bring supervisory or enforcement actions against a lender for a single isolated violation of Sec. 1041.5.

    In the discussion that follows, the Bureau responds to the core arguments raised in comments that were submitted on the Bureau's proposal. The Bureau has organized the comments received such that all of the core arguments presented by the commenters are addressed in the following analysis of the statutory prongs of whether the identified practice constitutes an ``unfair'' practice and an ``abusive'' practice.

    Unfairness

    As discussed in the proposal, under section 1031(c)(1) of the Dodd-

    Frank Act, an act or practice is unfair if it causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and such injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition. Under section 1031(c)(2), the Bureau may consider established public policies as evidence in making this determination. The proposal preliminarily found that it is an unfair practice for a lender to make a covered short-term loan without reasonably determining that the consumer will have the ability to repay the loan. After issuing the proposal and receiving and reviewing comments, the Bureau is now finalizing that conclusion for covered short-term loans. The Bureau concludes that the practice causes substantial injury in the form of default, delinquency, re-borrowing, and collateral consequences associated with attempts to avoid the other injuries by making unaffordable payments. The data that the Bureau analyzed suggest that, particularly with respect to re-borrowing, the incidence of injury is quite high. The Bureau also concludes that this injury is not reasonably avoidable because a substantial population of borrowers who incur injury--from default, delinquency, re-borrowing, or other collateral consequences from making unaffordable payments--do not anticipate the harm. Lastly, the Bureau concludes that the injury to these borrowers outweighs the countervailing benefits to those and other borrowers benefited by the practice and to competition. The most notable benefit would be greater access to credit for borrowers who lack an ability to repay, but for all the reasons discussed below, the Bureau believes that the harms associated with getting unaffordable credit for a substantial population of consumers outweigh any such benefit. In addition, the Bureau reasonably anticipates that even these borrowers are likely to retain access to some covered short-term loans that comply with the terms of final Sec. 1014.6, subject to the conditions that are imposed in that provision to prevent the risks and harms associated with extended loan sequences.

    Commenters presented feedback on the Bureau's preliminary conclusions for each of the three prongs of unfairness. The Bureau addresses the comments on those prongs in turn below.

    Practice Causes or Is Likely To Cause Substantial Injury

    The Bureau's Proposal

    The proposal noted that the Bureau's interpretation of the various prongs of the unfairness test is informed by the FTC Act, the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness, and FTC and other Federal agency rulemakings and related case

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    law.\643\ Under these authorities, as discussed in part IV, ``substantial injury'' may consist either of a small amount of harm to a large number of individuals or of a larger amount of harm to a smaller number of individuals. In this case, the proposal stated that the practice at issue causes or is likely to cause both--a substantial number of consumers suffer a high degree of harm, and a large number of consumers suffer a lower but still meaningful degree of harm.

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    \643\ Over the past several decades, the FTC and Federal banking regulators have promulgated a number of rules addressing acts or practices involving financial products or services that the agencies found to be unfair under the FTC Act (the 1994 amendments to which codified the FTC Policy Statement on Unfairness). For example, in the Credit Practices Rule, the FTC determined that certain features of consumer-credit transactions were unfair, including most wage assignments and security interests in household goods, pyramiding of late charges, and cosigner liability. 49 FR 7740 (March 1, 1984) (codified at 16 CFR part 444). The D.C. Circuit upheld the rule as a permissible exercise of unfairness authority. AFSA, 767 F.2d at 957. The Federal Reserve Board adopted a parallel rule applicable to banks in 1985. The Federal Reserve Board's parallel rule was codified in Regulation AA, 12 CFR part 227, subpart B. Regulation AA has been repealed as of March 21, 2016, following the Dodd-Frank Act's elimination of the Federal Reserve Board's rule writing authority under the FTC Act. See 81 FR 8133 (Feb. 18, 2016).