New York City, NY

Credit Acceptance Faces Lawsuit Over "Nightmare" Auto Loan Practices

Advocate Andy

Complaint alleges hidden loan costs, aggressive debt collection

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the New York Attorney General's Office today announced the filing of a lawsuit against auto lender Credit Acceptance for the company's practices that allegedly created financial distress, car repossession, and debt collection actions for borrowers. The complaint seeks relief for impacted consumers as well as a civil money penalty to discourage Credit Acceptance from engaging in these practices in the future.

“Credit Acceptance obscured the true cost of its loans to car buyers, leading to severe financial distress for borrowers and subjecting them to aggressive debt collection tactics on loans its own systems predicted that borrowers can’t afford to repay,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “The CFPB and the New York Attorney General seek to halt Credit Acceptance's illegal practices and make consumers whole.”

According to New York's Attorney General, the practices used by Credit Acceptance led to financial ruin for a significant number of borrowers from New York.

“CAC claimed to help low-income New Yorkers purchase cars, but instead, drove them straight into debt,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “CAC steered hardworking New Yorkers onto a path of financial ruin by tricking them into unaffordable, high-interest auto loans while cutting backroom deals with dealers to increase their own profits. These predatory actions hurt innocent people and left them with mountains of debt. I thank the CFPB for their partnership to stop this harm and protect everyday New Yorkers.”

The joint complaint filed by the CFPB and New York Attorney General alleges that Credit Acceptance harmed consumers by:

  • Hiding the true cost of credit: Since 2014, Credit Acceptance’s loan agreements nationwide have said that consumers would pay interest at an average 22% APR. However, the true cost of credit offered is far higher than what borrowers are told. This is because Credit Acceptance’s business model pushes dealers to manipulate the prices of vehicles sold to Credit Acceptance borrowers, based on borrowers’ projected performance. This increases the principal balance of the loans. By hiding the true cost of the credit in inflated principal balances, Credit Acceptance evades state interest rate caps and deprives consumers of the ability to make informed decisions, to compare financing options, or to avoid high interest charges.
  • Setting up borrowers to fail: Credit Acceptance ensured its own profits by providing loans without regard to whether borrowers could afford them. For almost 4 out of 10 loans, Credit Acceptance predicted that it would not be able to collect the full amount financed by the loan. Credit Acceptance profits even when borrowers are unable to pay their loans in full by using aggressive debt collection methods. As a result of Credit Acceptance’s practices, customers faced late fees, repossessions, auctions, post-repossession collection efforts, lawsuits, and ruined credit profiles.
  • Closing its eyes to practices that harmed consumers: The company created financial incentives for dealers to add extra products to loans and then shrugged off whether customers were misled into thinking the add-on products were required. Add-on products, such as vehicle service contracts, are a profit center for Credit Acceptance. They represented about $250 million in revenue in 2020 alone.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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