The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently filed a proposed final judgment in federal court that would resolve a lawsuit against Prime Marketing Holdings, LLC for illegal credit repair practices. The lawsuit alleged that the company charged illegal advance fees and misled consumers about the cost and effectiveness of its services and the nature of its money-back guarantee. The proposed order would permanently ban the company from doing business within the credit repair industry and require a $150,000 civil money penalty.
“Today we are taking action to shut down a company that deceived consumers into paying for credit repair services that did not live up to the company’s promises,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We remain committed to taking action against companies that mislead consumers into paying illegal fees with false promises.”
Prime Marketing Holdings is a credit repair company incorporated in Delaware with an office in Van Nuys, Calif. Prime Marketing Holdings has operated under various names including Park View Credit, National Credit Advisors, and Credit Experts. Between Oct. 1, 2014 and at least June 30, 2017, the company charged over 50,000 consumers more than $20 million for credit repair services.
In its lawsuit filed in September 2016, the Bureau alleged that Prime Marketing Holdings made misleading and unsubstantiated statements about its ability to improve consumers’ credit scores by removing negative information from their credit reports. The company also misrepresented and failed to disclose the limitations of its money-back guarantee. The Bureau alleges that these practices violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Specifically, the CFPB alleged that the defendant:
- Charged illegal advance fees: Federal law bars telemarketers and certain companies from requesting or collecting fees for credit repair services until certain conditions are met around the delivery of services. Prime Marketing Holdings, however, charged a variety of fees for its services before demonstrating that the promised results had been achieved as required by law. Specifically, the company charged consumers initial fees that it, at times, claimed were required to obtain special credit reports for consumers. The company also charged set-up fees totaling hundreds of dollars and monthly fees that often equaled $89.99 per month.
- Misled consumers about the benefits of its credit repair services: Prime Marketing Holdings misrepresented its ability to remove negative entries on consumers’ credit reports. The company also misrepresented to customers that its credit repair services would, or likely would, result in a substantial increase to consumers’ credit scores, generally by an average of 100 points. The company lacked a reasonable basis for making these claims.
- Misrepresented the costs of its services: In some cases, Prime Marketing Holdings failed to disclose to consumers during sales calls that they would be charged a monthly fee.
- Failed to disclose limits on “money-back guarantee”: Prime Marketing Holdings misrepresented that it offered a money-back guarantee if consumers were unhappy with the results of the company’s services. The company also failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose that the guarantee had significant limitations, including that the consumer had to pay for at least six months of services to be eligible for the guarantee.
The proposed final judgment has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and is only effective if approved by the presiding judge.
On June 27, 2017, the Bureau filed two related complaints against Commercial Credit Consultants, Prime Credit, IMC Capital, Blake Johnson, Eric Schlegel, Park View Law and Arthur Barens. Park View Law and Arthur Barens partnered with Prime Marketing Holdings from September 2014 to June 2015. Those two complaints alleged unlawful conduct very similar to the conduct alleged here. On the same day, the Bureau and those defendants filed proposed settlements to resolve those suits. Those settlements have both been approved.
A copy of the proposed final judgment filed in federal district court against Prime Marketing Holdings is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201708_cfpb_prime-market-holdings_stipulated-final-judgment-and-order.pdf
A copy of the second amended complaint filed in district court against Prime Marketing Holdings is available: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201708_cfpb_prime-market-holdings_complaint.pdf
This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.