Read our 2017 Florida Legislative Session Final Report here to see the highs and lows of the session for consumers and tenants.
July 10, 2017
FLORIDA ALLIANCE FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION Celebrates New Rule to Restore Consumers’ Ability to Enforce Rights and Protections in Court
Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized its rule to restore consumers’ right to join together in challenging financial fraud and scams in court. The result of five years of careful study and consideration, the rule as proposed would restrict the financial industry’s use of forced arbitration – a tactic Wall Street banks and payday lenders use to block consumers from challenging illegal behavior in court.
Corporate attorneys bury “ripoff clauses” in the fine print of financial contracts to evade public accountability for charges of fraud and lawbreaking by forcing consumers into secret arbitration proceedings rigged in the banks’ favor. These clauses often ban class action lawsuits as well, leaving consumers unable to challenge widespread misconduct since it is often too expensive to pursue small-dollar disputes one-by-one in arbitration. Wells Fargo has repeatedly invoked ripoff clauses in legitimate account contracts to block customers from suing together over fraudulent accounts, and the practice helped the bank hide its misconduct for years.
“These rules will protect all consumers, including our servicemembers, insuring servicemembers can defend their rights to enforce Servicemembers’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protections against lenders that target the military,” highlighted Alice Vickers, Director of FLACP. “These are important protections for all consumers.”
While the CFPB took a more modest approach rather than banning all forms of forced arbitration, the rule restores consumers’ right to join together in class action lawsuits and returns transparency to individual arbitration by establishing a public record of claims and outcomes. During the public comment period last August, Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection joined with 280 consumer, civil rights, labor, and community groups and more than 100,000 individual consumers across the country to support the proposed rule.
Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to advance consumer protection and tenant rights through research, education and advocacy.
STRONG SHOW OF SUPPORT FROM FLORIDIANS FOR CFPB PAYDAY LOAN RULE
CALLING FOR CLOSING LOOPHOLES TO PROTECT CONSUMERS
Read an in-depth analysis about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed payday loan rule and its impact on Florida law in our comment to the Bureau on the proposed rules. Other comments in support of a strong rule include:
Stop The Debt TrapCoalition includes 32 Florida organizations joining together to advocate for a strong payday loan rule here.
Nine members of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate here.
The St. Petersburg City Council passes a resolution for a strong payday loan.
Other comment letters:
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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!
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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.
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