The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has taken enforcement action against ACE Cash Express, one of the largest payday lenders in the United States, for pushing payday borrowers into a cycle of debt.
The CFPB found that ACE used illegal debt collection tactics – including harassment and false threats of lawsuits or criminal prosecution – to pressure overdue borrowers into taking out additional loans they could not afford. ACE will provide $5 million in refunds and pay a $5 million penalty for these violations.
"ACE used false threats, intimidation, and harassing calls to bully payday borrowers into a cycle of debt," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "This culture of coercion drained millions of dollars from cash-strapped consumers who had few options to fight back. The CFPB was created to stand up for consumers and today we are taking action to put an end to this illegal, predatory behavior."
ACE is a financial services company headquartered in Irving, Texas. The company offers payday loans, check-cashing services, title loans, installment loans, and other consumer financial products and services. ACE offers the loans online and at many of its 1,500 retail storefronts. The storefronts are located in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
Payday loans are often described as a way for consumers to bridge a cash-flow shortage between paychecks or other income. They are usually expensive, small-dollar loans that must be repaid in full in a short period of time. A March 2014 CFPB study found that four out of five payday loans are rolled over or renewed within 14 days. It also found that the majority of all payday loans are made to borrowers who renew their loans so many times that they end up paying more in fees than the amount of money they originally borrowed.
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. The CFPB's order requires ACE to take the following actions:
Pay $5 million in consumer refunds: ACE must provide $5 million in refunds to the overdue borrowers harmed by the illegal debt collection tactics during the period covered by the order.
End illegal debt collection threats and harassment: The order requires ACE to ensure that it will not engage in unfair and deceptive collections practices. Those practices include, but are not limited to, disclosing debts to unauthorized third parties; directly contacting consumers who are represented by an attorney; and falsely threatening to sue consumers, report to credit bureaus, or add collection fees.
Stop pressuring consumers into cycles of debt: ACE's collectors will no longer pressure delinquent borrowers to pay off a loan and then quickly take out a new loan from ACE. The Consent Order explicitly states that ACE may not use any abusive tactics.
Pay a $5 million fine: ACE will make a $5 million penalty payment to the CFPB's Civil Penalty Fund.