The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Nevada have charged 10 related Internet payday lenders and their principals, based mainly in the United Kingdom, with violating federal and state law by not disclosing key loan terms to U.S. consumers and using abusive and deceptive collection tactics.
According to the complaint filed by the FTC and the State of Nevada, through Web sites such as www.cash2day4u.com, the defendants offered consumers loans of $500 or less within 24 hours without requiring a credit check, proof of income, or documentation. Consumers who applied for a loan on the defendants’ Web site were required to provide their bank account and Social Security numbers.
As stated in the complaint, the defendants’ representatives called applicants and told them that they qualified for a loan, typically around $200, that had to be repaid by their next payday with a fee ranging from $35 to $80. They explained that if the loan was not repaid by then, it would be extended automatically for an extra fee that would be debited from the consumer’s bank account “until the loan is repaid.” Consumers were required to give the defendants access to their accounts for payment of the fees. Some consumers were told to call the defendants before their payday to ask them to debit the full loan amount from their accounts.
The complaint states that the defendants did not disclose key loan terms in writing, including the annual percentage rate, the payment schedule, the amount financed, the total number of payments, and any late payment fees. Consumers who asked for written disclosures were told that the transaction was oral only. According to the complaint, the defendants told consumers that they would send written disclosures after the phone call, but consumers never received them. After paying the defendants – sometimes hundreds of dollars above the loan amounts – many consumers concluded that they had more than repaid their loans and terminated the defendants’ access to their bank accounts, often by closing the accounts. Many consumers then received abusive and deceptive collection calls from the defendants aimed at regaining access to their accounts.
According to the complaint, the defendants falsely claimed that consumers were legally obligated to repay the loans, even though the loans did not comply with payday lending laws in many consumers’ states and the defendants were not licensed to make consumer loans in thosestates. The defendants falsely threatened consumers with arrest, lawsuits, property seizure, or wage garnishment, and repeatedly called consumers, coworkers, and employers at their workplace, using abusive language and disclosing consumers’ purported debts.
The corporate defendants are Cash Today, Ltd., The Heathmill Village, Ltd., Leads Global, Inc., Waterfront Investments, Inc., ACH Cash, Inc., HBS Services, Inc., Lotus Leads, Inc., First4Leads, Inc., Rovinge International, Inc., and The Harris Holdings, Ltd., each also doing business as Cash Today, Route 66 Funding, Global Financial Services International, Ltd., Interim Cash, Ltd., and BIG-INT, Ltd. The individual defendants are Aaron Gershfield, Ivor Gershfield, and Jim Harris.
The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act by using unfair and deceptive collection tactics, including falsely threatening consumers with arrest or imprisonment, falsely claiming that consumers are legally obligated to pay the debts; making false threats to take legal action that they cannot take; and repeatedly calling consumers at work and using abusive and profane language and disclosing consumers’ purported debts to coworkers, employers, and other third parties.
The defendants are also charged with violating the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by failing to make required written disclosures, clearly and conspicuously, before consummating a consumer credit transaction, including the amount financed, itemization of the amount financed, the finance charge, the annual percentage rate, the payment schedule, the total number of payments, and any late payment fees. In addition, they are charged with violating Nevada’s Deceptive Trade Act by not disclosing loan terms, making false representations in collecting debts, and selling loans to consumers without licenses.
The Commission vote to approve the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
NOTE: The Commission issues a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. These complaints are not a finding or ruling that the respondents have actually violated the law. The consent agreements are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute admissions by the respondents of a law violation.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. 0723093)