The CFPB issued two sets of FAQs that discuss assistance that financial services providers can offer consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One set of FAQs is directed at providers of checking, savings, or prepaid accounts. The FAQs deal with an account provider’s ability to change account terms and the ways account providers can provide immediate relief to consumers. In its responses, the CFPB reminds providers that they can offer consumers immediate relief by changing account terms without advance notice under Regulations E or DD where the change in terms is clearly favorable to the consumer. The Bureau includes as examples that a provider can eliminate ATM fees or that pursuant to the Federal Reserve Board’s April 2020 interim final rule deleting the six-per-month transfer limit on savings accounts, a provider can eliminate transfer fees on savings accounts without providing advance notice. It also notes that providers can use their discretion (as long as not done in a discriminatory manner) to waive or reduce fees on a case-by-case basis. The Bureau suggests that as a way of avoiding telephone queues, providers consider implementing waivers on their own initiative rather than wait for the consumer to contact the provider. It comments that this approach could facilitate consumer access to economic impact payments (under the CARES Act).
The other set of FAQs is directed at creditors offering open-end credit (that is not home-secured). Two of the FAQs similarly deal with a creditor’s ability to change account terms. In its responses, the CFPB reminds creditors that they can offer consumers immediate relief without advance notice under Regulation Z by reducing any charges or making an APR reduction as part of a temporary hardship arrangement. It also discusses how a creditor can take advantage of the flexibility Regulation Z provides to avoid giving advance written notice of the terms of a hardship arrangement and the terms that will apply at the end of the arrangement where the arrangement is entered into by telephone. The Bureau comments that while not required, creditors can remind consumers when a forbearance period is nearing its end as a way of reducing consumer confusion and complaints.
A third FAQ addresses how creditors can engage with consumers to assist them during the pandemic. The Bureau suggests that creditors consider highlighting to consumers how they can use online resources or email to communicate with the creditor, adding additional communications or materials when sending periodic statements, and making consumers aware of the Bureau’s resources for consumers. The Bureau also discusses electronic delivery of required disclosures and obtaining consumer consent to electronic provision of disclosures.