Even though military members put their lives on the line for this country financial predators consider them fair game. More often than not, they get away with it. Now government investigators cracked down on an auto loan program.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ordered U.S. Bank and one of its nonbank partner companies, Dealers’ Financial Services (DFS), to end deceptive marketing and lending practices targeting active-duty military. The two companies must return about $6.5 million to servicemembers for failing to properly disclose all the fees charged to participants in the companies’ Military Installment Loans and Educational Services (MILES) auto loans program, and for misrepresenting the true cost and coverage of add-on products financed along with the auto loans.
“The Bureau has a special mission to protect servicemembers,” said CPFB Director Richard Cordray. “The MILES program failed to properly disclose costs associated with repaying auto loans through the military allotments system and the expensive auto add-on products sold to active-duty military. We will continue our work to ensure that servicemembers are treated fairly.
The MILES program required servicemembers to repay their auto loans using the military allotment system, which deducts payments directly from a military member’s paycheck before that salary is deposited in his or her bank accounts. The allotment system was created decades ago to help deployed servicemembers send money home to their families and pay their creditors at a time when automatic bank payments and electronic transfers were not yet common bank services.
Today, the military allotment system may be vulnerable to misuse. When service members pay by allotment, the lenders often require them to use third-party processors that charge one or more fees. If lenders require payments by allotment, military consumers could be left with no choice but to pay this additional processing fee in order to qualify and pay for the loan. This can cost servicemembers more in fees than alternatives like online banking, which are often free.