Measure Would Strengthen Enforcement of Consumer Protection Laws for Military Servicemembers and their Families
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) announced its endorsement of the Military Consumer Enforcement Act, a bill introduced today by former Army Ranger Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Members of the Armed Services and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committees respectively. The legislation would give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) authority to oversee and enforce compliance with certain existing provisions of the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a law that protects active servicemembers and their families from certain civil actions. For example, the SCRA prohibits mortgage foreclosure or eviction of military members and their dependents, and the law caps interest rates at 6% on debts incurred prior to an individual entering active duty military service.
“The Military Consumer Enforcement Act would help the Consumer Bureau fend off the financial bottom feeders who take advantage of our brave men and women in uniform. Financial predators not only drive servicemembers and their families deep into debt and despair, but they also create a distraction for those tasked with defending our nation. We commend Senator Reed, Senator Brown, and all Senators introducing the Military Consumer Enforcement Act for their leadership and we urge swift passage of the bill,” said Melissa Stegman, Senior Policy Counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending.
The Department of Defense has found that “predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force.” The SCRA was designed to enable active duty military servicemembers to focus on national security. However, enforcement of the SCRA has been inconsistent as traditional financial regulators have often let consumer protection fall by the wayside.
In stark contrast, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened in 2011 and has made consumer protection its overriding priority, returning billions in relief to American consumers harmed by illegal financial practices, including – under present legal authority – more than $130 million to servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The CFPB has handled more than 72,000 complaints about financial companies from servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs has provided financial education at 148 military facilities nationwide. These numbers point to both the scale of the problem and the CFPB’s unique position to best tackle it.
The full list of sponsors and co-sponsors is as follows: Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
The Military Consumer Enforcement Act would give the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs jurisdiction over enforcing SCRA provisions regarding certain financial matters, including:
- Default judgements
- Interest rate on debts incurred before military service
- Installment contracts for purchase or lease
- Mortgages and trust deeds
- Termination of residential or motor vehicle leases
- Termination of telephone service contracts
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Matthew Kravitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-349-1859.