A magistrate judge in the Northern District of Georgia recently recommended granting summary judgment in a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) case in favor of a background reporting company on the grounds that a report given only to the consumer is not a consumer report and including a valid conviction on a report does not violate the FCRA as long as its expungement is also included.
On December 8, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (collectively, the agencies) filed an amici curiae brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reverse a district court’s decision finding that furnishers need not investigate indirect disputes involving purely legal questions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
On December 15, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced it had reached a settlement with medical debt collector Commonwealth Financial Systems, Inc. (Commonwealth) in its lawsuit over alleged illegal debt collection practices. Specifically, the CFPB alleged that Commonwealth failed to conduct reasonable investigations of disputes and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by attempting to collect disputed debt without obtaining substantiating documentation. Under the settlement agreement, Commonwealth is banned from debt collection activities, must request CRAs to delete all consumer accounts to which it had previously furnished information, and must pay a $95,000 penalty to the CFPB’s victims relief fund.
On December 13, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law S4907A, which prohibits hospitals, medical providers, or ambulance services from providing negative information about medical debt to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). The law also requires that these entities include a provision in their contracts with collection agencies prohibiting the reporting of any portion of a medical debt to a CRA. Any debt that is reported to a CRA will be deemed void. The law became effective immediately after it was signed.
A U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California recently held that a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 offer of judgment must clearly state that attorneys’ fees and costs are limited or waived, as Arvest Central Mortgage Company (Arvest) learned to its detriment. The plaintiff had a mortgage with Arvest, entered into a forbearance agreement, and made the payments on the property, but claimed Arvest inaccurately reported that he was late on his October 2020 payment. The plaintiff sued Arvest and nine other defendants for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and California’s Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act, ultimately resolving his claims against all defendants except Arvest.
According to a recent report by WebRecon, court filings under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) were down for the month of October, but filings under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) were up. Complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) were also up for the month.
On November 9, a magistrate judge in the Northern District of Georgia issued a Report & Recommendation to grant a motion to dismiss because the plaintiff’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claims were time-barred and the cause of action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) failed to state a claim.
On November 16, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) released its Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) Annual Report detailing the CFPB’s 2022 activities related to debt collection practices. This comprehensive document summarizes everything FDCPA-related undertaken by the agency during 2022, including enforcement actions, a summary of consumer complaints, education and outreach initiatives, and highlights from examinations it conducted. In addition to summarizing activities in the debt collection space from the past year, the report hints at potential future activities. Tellingly, the CFPB’s focus in 2022 was predominantly on medical debt, as highlighted by its press release announcing this report.
On October 24, the Biden-Harris administration announced amendments to the regulations implementing title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). According to the fact sheet, the amendments are intended to allow the Department of Education (ED) to better protect students from the negative effects of sudden college closures, restrict colleges from withholding course credits paid for with federal money from students’ transcripts, require colleges to clearly communicate how much financial aid students will receive, and provide a more streamlined process for states to approve postsecondary opportunities for students without a high school diploma or its equivalent. The amended regulations will take effect on July 1, 2024.
On October 30, President Biden issued a sweeping Executive Order calling on Congress to enact privacy laws and directing federal agencies to review existing rules and potentially explore new rulemakings governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) across various sectors of the U.S. economy. Among other things, the Executive Order will require AI system developers to submit safety test results to the federal government, establish standards for detecting AI-generated content to fight consumer fraud, and develop AI tools to identify and fix vulnerabilities in critical software. According to the White House fact sheet, the stated goal of the Executive Order is to “ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of [AI].” To that end, the Executive Order focuses on national security, privacy, discrimination and bias, healthcare safety, workplace surveillance, innovation, and global leadership.