June 15, 2015

Warner & Kaine Introduce Bill To Protect Servicemembers From Abusive Financial Practices

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined U.S. Senators Jack Reed, Chuck Schumer, and seven other colleagues to introduce the Military Consumer Protection Act, which would better protect servicemembers and their families from abusive financial practices.  This legislation would empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to oversee and enforce compliance with certain existing provisions of the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA). In 2014, the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the CFPB received more than 17,000 complaints from servicemembers, veterans, and their family members and in response, the CFPB helped provide more than $94 million in refunds and relief.

“This bill ensures that protecting our servicemembers from predatory financial practices and scams will remain a top priority at CFPB,” said Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee. “We must do all we can to make sure that our men and women in uniform and their families have a defense against scams and abuse that can destroy finances and lives. That way, our military members can focus on what they do best: Protecting and keeping us safe.”

“Our military families who sacrifice so much for our country deserve strong protections that will stop predatory practices and guard their financial well-being,” said Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “It’s clear from the alarming number of reports in 2014 that the status quo is unacceptable, and that we must do more to protect servicemembers and their families from abusive financial practices.”

The SCRA was designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service. Despite these SCRA protections, enforcement of this critical law has been found to be inconsistent and subject to the discretion of financial regulators.  Without a change in the law, SCRA enforcement will continue to be subject to the changing priorities of financial regulators. The Military Consumer Protection Act would ensure that SCRA enforcement will be a permanent priority for the CFPB.

The Military Consumer Protection Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken, Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez, and Mazie Hirono. The bill is supported by a number of organizations representing the interests of servicemembers and their families, including: the Consumer Federation of America; the National Guard Association of the United States; the National Association of Consumer Advocates; the National Military Family Association; the Military Officers Association of America; and U.S. PIRG. 

Specifically, the Military Consumer Protection Act would give the CFPB enforcement power over the following SCRA provisions:

Section 101. Definitions.

Section 107. Waiver of rights pursuant to written agreement, which excludes bailments.

Section 108. Exercise of rights under the SCRA not to affect certain future financial transactions, which excludes insurance.

Section 201. Protection of Servicemembers against default judgments, which excludes child custody proceedings.

Section 207. Maximum rate of interest on debts incurred before military service.

Section 301. Evictions and distress.

Section 302. Protection under installment contracts for purchase or lease.

Section 303. Mortgages and trust deeds.

Section 305. Termination of residential or motor vehicle leases.

Section 305(A). Termination of telephone service contracts.