Preserve Consumer Discounts on Auto Credit

House Voted Overwhelmingly to Rescind Flawed CFPB Guidance Last Congress

Issue

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued guidance that threatens to eliminate a dealer’s flexibility to offer consumers discounted auto loans. The CFPB is attempting to change the $1 trillion auto loan market and limit market competition without prior public comment, using flawed statistics, and without analyzing the impact of its guidance on consumers. Since the CFPB’s actions will raise credit costs for car buyers, Congress is urged to continue vigorous oversight of the CFPB’s flawed auto lending actions to ensure auto loans remain affordable.

Background

Most car buyers choose to finance their purchases through indirect financing at dealerships. Dealers often discount an interest rate to “meet or beat” a competitor’s rate or meet a consumer’s budget needs. The CFPB’s 2013 guidance pressures auto lenders in a way that would eliminate or limit a dealer’s ability to discount credit for consumers. By limiting market competition, the CFPB increases the overall cost of auto loans for consumers.

The CFPB is basing its policy on its claim that discounted interest rates create a fair-credit risk. However, a nonpartisan study of the CFPB’s policy found that its methodology to determine fair credit compliance was prone to significant errors and ignored legitimate business factors that can affect finance rates (e.g. beating a competing rate). The CFPB knew of these flaws yet failed to correct them. The auto industry takes fair credit very seriously, and has proposed a fair-credit compliance system, based on a Department of Justice (DOJ) model, that preserves discounts on credit for legitimate business reasons. To date, the CFPB has declined to provide full transparency regarding its auto finance guidance or a legitimate reason for not adopting the effective DOJ fair credit alternative.

Last Congress, NADA supported H.R. 1737/S. 2663, the “Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act”. These bills would have protected fair lending laws, rescinded the flawed auto finance guidance, and allowed the CFPB to reissue it under a transparent process. H.R. 1737 passed the House by a veto-proof vote of 332-96 (including 88 Democrats) on November 18, 2015.  S. 2663 was referred to the Senate Banking Committee, which held two CFPB hearings where committee members on both sides of the aisle expressed support for protecting affordable auto loans.

Key Points

  • Congressional oversight is needed to ensure the CFPB conducts auto lending efforts in a fair and transparent manner. The CFPB’s 2013 auto finance guidance would have a major impact on the auto lending market, yet was issued without prior notice, public comment or a hearing.
  • The industry strongly supports fair lending protections and has promoted a fair-credit compliance program based on a DOJ model that effectively manages fair-credit risk while preserving discounts on credit for consumers.
  • Preserving discounts for consumers keeps auto loans accessible and affordable.  The CFPB admits it never analyzed the impact of its guidance on consumers. Subsequent analysis revealed that the guidance would increase auto credit costs, potentially push the marginally creditworthy out of the auto market, and lessen competition.

Status  

The House Financial CHOICE Act, expected to be reintroduced soon by House Financial Services chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), would reform the CFPB to make it more transparent and accountable.  NADA urges Congress to continue vigorous oversight of the CFPB to keep auto loans competitive, accessible, and affordable.

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March 17, 2017