CFPB Takes Action Against Debt-Settlement Company for Charging Consumers Unlawful Fees
May 18, 2021 / Source: CFPB
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requested today that a federal district court enter a final judgment and order that, if entered by the court, would require DMB Financial, LLC to pay consumers at least $5.4 million for charging unlawful fees and failing to provide required disclosures to its customers, and a civil penalty. The CFPB alleges that DMB’s actions violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA).
“DMB Financial preyed on consumers who were struggling financially, charging millions of dollars in illegal upfront fees and hiding the true cost of its services,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio. “Charging upfront fees for debt settlement is a violation of federal law, and the CFPB will continue to act decisively when we see companies taking advantage of consumers in this way.”
DMB Financial is a Massachusetts-based debt-settlement company that operates in at least 24 states. DMB offers and provides services to settle or renegotiate unsecured debt on behalf of consumers.
In December 2020 the CFPB filed a lawsuit against DMB Financial in federal district court in Massachusetts alleging that the company had charged unlawful upfront frees before it performed its promised services, and before consumers began making payments under any debt settlement.
Deceiving Consumers About Fees and Disclosures
The CFPB alleges that DMB Financial violated the TSR and CFPA. DMB’s violations center around:
- Unlawful fees: DMB Financial allegedly charged fees before some consumers had made at least one payment to a creditor under a settlement agreement and charged some consumers fees even though it did not negotiate a settlement. The company also allegedly collected fees that were calculated on the consumer’s debt amount after their time of enrollment in one of DMB’s debt-settlement programs.
- Improper disclosures: DMB Financial allegedly failed to disclose the amount that a consumer must save before making a settlement offer and the time by which it would make a settlement offer. The company also allegedly deceived consumers about settlement fees, including by charging settlement fees greater than what was disclosed in the enrollment agreement.
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions violating federal consumer financial laws, including by engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. The proposed judgment and order, if entered by the court, would require DMB Financial to:
- Refund harmed consumers: The order, if entered by the court, would impose a judgment of $7.7 million against DMB Financial, LLC, which would be suspended upon its paying consumers $5.4 million.
- Stop deceptive practices: DMB Financial would be prohibited from engaging in the unlawful and deceptive practices alleged by the CFPB.
- Pay a civil penalty: The order would also impose a penalty of $1 to be paid to the Bureau and deposited into the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. By requiring the DMB Financial to pay a penalty of $1, the order may make consumers eligible for additional relief from the CFPB Civil Penalty Fund in the future, although that determination has not yet been made. The Bureau is seeking this nominal penalty because of DMB Financial’s limited financial resources.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.