CFPB Eliminates Class Action Waivers with New Arbitration Rule

By: Jonathan K. Moore, Edward W. Chang, Diana M. Eng, and Andrew Williamson

On July 10, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a final rule (“Arbitration Rule”) prohibiting banks, debt servicers, credit card companies, and a wide range of other businesses from using arbitration clauses to bar a consumer from filing a class action lawsuit to resolve any future dispute between the consumer and the consumer financial service provider. The full version of the final rule is available on the CFPB’s website:  CFPB Arbitration Agreements Final Rule.

Summary of the New Arbitration Rule

The Arbitration Rule is extremely broad and encompasses virtually any type of consumer financial services provider, including entities that do not lend money or service consumer debt. Notably, in addition to creditors, debt buyers, and other entities that directly lend, purchase, or service debt, the new rule applies to entities “participating in consumer credit decisions,” entities “providing services to assist with debt management or debt settlement . . . and [entities] providing products or services represented to remove derogatory information from, or to improve, a person’s credit history, credit record, or credit rating . . . .”

The Arbitration Rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register (“Effective Date”). In addition, the Arbitration Rule will only apply to agreements entered into more than 180 days after the Effective Date, which provides a short grace period for impacted businesses to comply.

Further, Congress may use the Congressional Review Act to invalidate the Arbitration Rule by voting to disapprove the regulation within “60 legislative days” of the Effective Date. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that Congress will act.

Conclusion

Because the Arbitration Rule will apply prospectively to agreements entered into more than 180 days after the Effective Date, it would be prudent for consumer financial services providers to take steps to comply with the new rule and explore other ways to reduce litigation risks and costs. If the Arbitration Rule goes unchallenged by Congress, it will begin to apply to consumer financial service providers in early 2018.