END FORCED ARBITRATION
Yesterday, 164 organizations, including FLACP, that advocate on behalf of consumers, students, civil rights, labor, small business, and more, sent this letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), urging the agency to use its Congressional authority to restrict forced arbitration – the abusive practice in which corporations bury “ripoff clauses” in the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it contracts in order to block consumers from challenging hidden fees, fraud, and other illegal behavior in court. The CFPB recently announced it will hold a field hearing on arbitration in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 5th, where it is expected to propose such a rule.
In forced arbitration, consumers lose the right to present a grievance to an impartial judge and jury. Instead, big banks and abusive lenders are able to hire a private firm of their choosing to decide the dispute, leaving consumers with little opportunity to present evidence or appeal a bad decision. Many ripoff clauses even bar consumers from talking about what happened to them — which means that the public will likely never learn about the corporate wrongdoing.
The letter was delivered to the CFPB on the 5th anniversary of the landmark AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion decision, which held that corporations can block consumers from joining together to challenge abuses as a group, even overriding state law. Congress specifically empowered the CFPB to restrict or ban forced arbitration if it was found to be harmful to consumers, and the agency’s comprehensive study, released last year, did indeed provide powerful evidence of harm. The study documented that very few consumers are able to challenge corporate fraud or abuse when forced to pursue a large company one by one.
2016 Final Legislative Session Report
FLACP final session report for 2016 is here. We are disappointed that legislation to create a rate cap for predatory payday loans did not pass, but our thanks to Sen. Bullard and to Rep. B. Watson for their strong support for consumers.
2015 Final Legislative Session Report
FLACP final session report for 2015 is here. We are pleased with the passage of legislation protecting tenants in foreclosure, our key initiative for the 2015 session. We are also encouraged that changes to Florida’s installment lending act that would have created a loan product allowing triple digit interest did not pass, though we anticipate legislation on this issue will be filed next year. We opposed changes to Florida’s Forcible Entry and Detainer Statute to allow for the immediate eviction of someone alleged to be a guest. FLACP supports the ability of residents to seek the removal of a guest who is trespassing, however, the law as passed places broad authority in law enforcement with little accountability for law enforcement if the wrong decision is made. Further, the law forces those claiming to be tenants to choose between leaving what he or she may argue is their home or risking arrest for refusing to leave. We will monitor the implementation of this new law.
FLACP and 22 Florida Groups Express Opposition To Florida Congressional Representatives’ Support of Florida Payday Loan Law
Tallahassee, FL – Today, a coalition of 23 Florida nonprofit organizations sent a response letter to members of the Florida congressional delegation, as well as to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, refuting claims previously made by all but one of Florida’s Congressional Representatives that the states’ payday loan law serves as a model for other states to follow. Each of the 23 organizations joining this letter regularly assist low-income consumers who frequently find themselves caught in debt traps created by the payday loans currently permitted under Florida law.
The controversial letter sent to Director Cordray in April – signed by each Florida Congressional Representative, except Rep. Thomas Rooney – claims the Florida payday loan law provides a structure that protects consumers from economic harm.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” explains Alice Vickers, Director, Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection. “Florida data is clear that payday loans put most consumers on a treadmill of debt.”
Advocates support efforts of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide meaningful protections for borrowers, including a determination by the lender that a consumer has the ability to repay the payday loan.
“Any legitimate loan should be based on the consumer’s ability to repay the loan. In this regard, payday loans should be no different from other mainstream loan products,” states Vickers.
The advocates’ letter urges these Florida Members to reconsider their position and support marketplace equality rather than special interests.
Link to advocates’ letter to the Florida Congressional Delegation: here
Payday Loan information sheet: here
Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection is a nonprofit, nonpartisan enterprise whose mission is to advance consumer protection and tenants rights through research, education and advocacy. www.flacp.org
See full press release here.
Passage of Legislation to Protect Tenants in Foreclosed Rentals
Tallahassee, FL – Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid are pleased to announce the passage of legislation to provide protections to tenants renting apartments and homes that are foreclosed. HB 779, sponsored by Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, provides tenants in rentals a 30-day notice after a foreclosure to sign new lease with the purchaser or find a new home. Under current Florida law, since the expiration of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, tenants could be evicted after 24 hours notice.
Rep. Mia Jones in presenting the bill on the Florida House floor, said “in the last year Florida has had the distinction of completing more foreclosures than any other state in the country. These foreclosure issues were nationwide, leading Congress to pass the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. This Act provided protection for bona fide tenants with 90 days notice after foreclosure before they would have to leave the premises. The protections, however, expired on December 31, 2014.” HB 779 will provide this much needed protection.
In filing the bill Sen. Soto said, “Right now Florida law fails to protect renting families. We can and must do better.” Passage of the bill ensures Florida will do better.
“The total upheaval in tenants’ lives when a landlord fails to pay the mortgage, including disrupting parents’ jobs and children’s schooling, is unacceptable. Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Mia Jones and Sen. Soto, HB 779 will provide basic protections for Florida’s renters,” said Jeffrey Haynie with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Inc.
This legislation, which will take immediate effect after the governor approves the bill, will insure families who rent, and are the innocent victims in the foreclosure process, at least have a reasonable period of time to find a new home after a foreclosure.
Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates on behalf of tenants and consumers.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is a non-profit law firm specializing in providing civil legal assistance to low-income and special-needs individuals and groups.
See full press release here.
Florida Legislative Session 2015 Opens
The Florida 2015 Legislative Session has begun! For the 60 days of session, FLACP will be following bills that impact consumers and tenants. Follow our weekly bill update here, where you can find links to the bills we are following, our bill analysis, and our position – whether we support, oppose or see need for amendments.
FLACP Joins Faith Groups, Legal Services, Florida NAACP, and the Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society in Calling For Strong CFPB Rules to End the Predatory Lending Debt Trap
FLACP joins many other groups in calling on the Florida Congressional Delegation to support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to end the payday loan debt trap. CFPB is poised to issue rules to hopefully rein in the worst practices engaged in by the payday lending industry. This is important in Florida where payday loans carry an interest rate that is 20 times the criminal usury rate. One customer of Advance America in Jacksonville Florida characterized her experience with payday loans this way: “It caught up my bills at the time but I was right back behind because the interest is so high. If you do pay them off, you have to go borrow the money again.” Read the full letter and see the list of groups joining here.
FLACP DIRECTOR RECOGNIZED FOR CONSUMER WORK
Alice Vickers, Director of FLACP was the recipient of the Consumer Advocate of the Year from the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA). Ira Rheingold, Executive Director of NACA, joined Alice after the award presentation by Lynn Drysdale, FLACP board member. NACA presented the recognition at its annual meeting during the NACA/NCLC conference in Tampa in November.
Department Of Defense Proposes New Rules To Close Loopholes On Abusive Practices In High Cost Loans To Service Members
FLACP applauds the Department of Defense for issuing proposed rules that protect service members from abusive practices in high cost loans. The rules cap interest rates at 36% for a wide range of high cost loans sold to service members and their dependents and also would limit mandatory arbitration in the contracts. “Payday lenders and others have taken advantage of every loophole imaginable to continue the reprehensible practice of offering loans at triple digit interest rates with abusive terms to our men and women in uniform,” said Tom Feltner, director of financial services, Consumer Federation of America. Read more about the rules here.
FLACP Board Member Lynn Drysdale named Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year!
Lynn Drysdale, a veteran attorney of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid who teaches consumer law and lectures frequently regarding foreclosure and other consumer pocketbook issues, is the recipient of The Florida Bar’s 2014 Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year Award.
“After serving on this committee for six years and having been a consumer attorney for many more than that, I am well aware of Drysdale’s work to further consumer law interests,” said John Yanchunis, the 2014 chair of the Consumer Protection Law Committee.
Wrote attorney Alice Vickers, the 2013 winner of the award, in nominating Drysdale:
“Lynn has been engaged in a high-level consumer protection practice for at least 25 years. Over the course of that time, she has handled simple and very complex litigation for low-income consumers, those most vulnerable who have suffered economic injustice. While continuously carrying a full case load at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, she has managed, supervised, and mentored countless new JALA attorneys and law school interns. But she has also devoted hours to outside efforts, including years of legislative fights over title loans, payday loans, debt collection issues, foreclosure, and many more issues.” Read the full story here.
FLACP Presents Award To Florida Representative David Santiago
FLACP is proud to present an award to Rep. David Santiago in recognition of his support of consumers during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session. Rep. Santiago protected the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act from changes that would have severely eroded consumer protections. Thank you Rep. Santiago!
The Florida 2014 Legislative Session ended with the legislature filing fewer bills and passing fewer bills than in years past. One of the most important issues for consumers was maintaining the protections provided under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. We were successful in our efforts doing this and want to thank Rep. Santiago, bill sponsor, for his leadership in seeing that consumers were protected. Efforts to create a scheme around residential renter’s insurance failed. Crowdfunding legislation did not move in light of the SEC being in the midst of rulemaking on this issue – we expect to see this legislation return next year. You can read our full report under our “Legislative” link or here.
We are new! Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection started when a group of concerned Florida citizens joined together to create a statewide consumer protection and tenant rights advocacy nonprofit. With Florida poised to be the third most populated state in the nation, we felt our citizens needed a statewide organization dedicated solely to consumer protection and tenant rights. Though many organizations provide crucial support on these issues, for which we are grateful, we feel an organization focused on these issues is important for the future protection of Floridians.
What We Do
We are currently applying for our 501(c)(4) status as a nonprofit. We followed legislation during the 2014 Florida legislative session that will impact consumers and tenants. Follow us on Facebook for timely updates, as we start to use these tools to keep you informed.
As we grow, we hope to provide you with educational materials and other information to help all Floridians become smart consumers.