The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Springstone Financial LLC to provide $700,000 in relief to victims of allegedly deceptive credit enrollment tactics.
Many consumers who signed up for Springstones deferred-interest loan product at dental offices to pay for dental work were led to believe that the product was interest free.
In reality, according to the CFPB, the interest accrued from the date of the consumers purchase and was charged if the balance wasn't paid in full before the promotional period ended. An estimated 3,200 consumers who signed up for the product ultimately were charged and paid deferred interest.
From January 2009 through December 2014, Springstone allegedly administered its healthcare financing program, which offered consumers two credit products: an installment loan and a deferred-interest loan product.
The deferred-interest product incurred no interest if the balance was paid in full within a certain promotional period. During this time, a network of approximately 9,000 healthcare providers was authorized by Springstone to offer its loan products and assist consumers in enrollment. Receptionists and office staff of these healthcare providers could offer consumers application materials and help them fill out the application before submitting it to Springstone on the consumers behalf. Springstone terminated the deferred-interest product in December 2014.
The CFPB's investigation found that providers who were trained and monitored by Springstone to market the deferred-interest loan product misled consumers about the terms and conditions of the product during the application process.
In some cases, dental office staff told consumers that the deferred-interest product was a "no-interest" loan and failed to mention they would have to pay 22.98% interest on the loan if they didnt pay it off in full by the end of the promotional period. More than 3,200 consumers may have been affected by these deceptive practices.
"Deceiving patients in need of medical care into paying for services with risky credit adds insult to injury," said CFPB Director Richard Corday. "The [CFPB] will not tolerate financial companies or their providers taking advantage of distressed patients and their loved ones with misleading sales pitches. Springstone, based in Westborough, Mass., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of San Francisco-based Lending Club Corp.Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has authority to take action against companies that engage in allegedly unfair, deceptive or abusive practices, or other violations of federal consumer financial law. To ensure that harmed consumers are appropriately compensated and that consumers will no longer be subject to these illegal practices, the CFPBs order requires Springstone to: refund $700,000 to more than 3,200 consumers and conveniently repay consumers - meaning eligible consumers shouldn't have to take any action to get their refund.
Springstone also must notify affected consumers and issue a credit or send a reimbursement check to those consumers with an open Springstone account. For those consumers with a closed or inactive account, Springstone will mail a reimbursement check.
The full text of the CFPBs consent order is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201508_cfpb_consent-order-springstone-financial-llc.pdf