CFPB Hits Auto Lender with $48.3M in Fines, Restitution
Lawmakers from both political parties on Tuesday sharply criticized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's attempt to restrict or eliminate auto dealers' ability to markup a loan by citing their partnering lenders, arguing it would result in higher prices for consumers.September 29
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has struggled internally with how to end potential discrimination in auto lending, including debating whether it should cite a large lender in the hopes of effectively ending the ability of partnering dealers to mark up loans with all lenders.September 24
WASHINGTON — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hit an indirect auto lender and a subsidiary with $48.3 million in fines and restitution on Thursday, accusing it of deceptive collection tactics.
The agency said that Los Angeles-based Westlake Services and auto title lender Wilshire Consumer Credit called consumers under false pretenses and used phony caller ID information in an effort to collect on debts. The companies also allegedly falsely threatened to refer borrowers for investigation or criminal prosecution and illegally disclosed information about debts to borrowers' employers, friends and family.
"There's no excuse for lying to your customers, and today's action will provide millions of dollars in relief for borrowers caught up in Westlake and Wilshire's deception," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press release. "Consumers struggling to pay their bills deserve to be treated with respect, not subjected to illegal threats and deceptive phone calls. We will continue to clean up the debt-collection market and root out these illegal and inexcusable practices."
The CFPB ordered the companies to provide $44.1 million in cash relief and balance reductions to affected customers and pay an additional $4.25 million in civil money penalties.
The agency said the companies' debt collectors altered called ID information for outgoing calls to make it appear that they were calling from other companies, including repossession firms.
"The companies' debt collectors would then pretend during the call that they were calling from repossession companies and make explicit or implicit threats that the borrowers' vehicles were in imminent danger of being repossessed," the CFPB release said.
A representative for Westlake Services did not immediately return a call seeking comment.