(WHNT) — Customers across the country of OneMain Financial could receive a refund after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ordered the company to pay $20 million for “deceptive sales practices.”
In the announcement on Wednesday, the CFPB said lenders pushed employees to upsell borrowers on every loan in order to hit sales targets and “illegally withheld refunds.”
Officials say the installment lender failed to refund interest charged to 25,000 customers who canceled purchases within a promised “full refund period,” along with deceiving borrowers into buying add-on products in order to obtain a loan.
Headquartered in Evansville, Indiana, OneMain is one of the largest non-depository personal installment lenders in America, with a network of more than 1,400 branches across 44 states, including several in Alabama.
$10 million will go to customers harmed, while the other $10 million will go to the CFPB’s victims’ relief fund.
“OneMain pressured its employees to load up its loans with extra charges through false promises of easy cancellation with full refunds,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We are ordering OneMain to refund borrowers it cheated and to clean up its business practices.”
OneMain employees were “incentivized to push more products, and company training materials directed them to upsell them even when consumers had already declined the products on previous loans,” the announcement explained. “Salespeople were evaluated on the basis of their sales rate and could even be fired if they did not upsell enough.”
According to the CFPB, OneMain:
- Tricked borrowers into signing up for optional products: OneMain customers were led to believe that they could not receive a loan without signing up for an add-on product. Some employees added the products to paperwork without verbally informing the consumer that the products were included or optional, a practice referred to internally as “pre-packing.” If the consumer identified the products and asked for their removal, employees were expected to make it seem difficult to remove the products. In other cases, employees obscured written disclosures from consumers’ view, or verbally contradicted them.
- Kept $10 million in interest charges despite its “full-refund” policy: OneMain told borrowers they would receive a “full refund” on add-on purchases if they cancelled within a certain period (generally 30 days). However, OneMain unfairly failed to refund interest charges for about 25,000 borrowers who signed up for add-ons such as roadside assistance benefits, identity theft protection, or entertainment discounts. Because of how OneMain precomputed interest on some loans, customers had already been charged significant amounts of interest that the company did not refund. Over the past four years, OneMain kept approximately $10 million in interest charges attributable to add-ons cancelled within its purported “full refund period.”
The financial institution will be required to stop any unlawful activity, along with adjusting its policies to make it easier and safer for consumers to receive a loan or cancel when needed.
You can read the entire order here.