Last week, RMK Financial Corp. agreed to a $250,000 fine in a consent decree pertaining to direct mailings to consumers.
The CFPB alleged that RMK had engaged in unfair and deceptive advertising by sending out mailers that created the illusion that the lender was affiliated with the U.S. Government by directing borrowers to call their "VA Interest Rate Deduction Department" and the "FHA Streamline Department" and used the approved lending logos, along with referring to the lending scenarios as "distinctive program[s] offered by the Federal Government." The CFPB concluded that the effect of these advertisements were likely to mislead consumers to believe they were sent by the federal government.
The CFPB also found that RMK Financial's advertisements were unfair and deceptive in that they were offering rates for variable mortgages but such information was concealed through inconspicuous placement in the mailing. Notably, the CFPB supported its claims by reviewing recordings of consumers calling in response to the advertisements. The fact that consumers were ultimately informed of the correct information, did not negate the misleading initial nature of the mailer.
Once again, the CFPB is demonstrating that lenders must act affirmatively to avoid confusion in the marketplace. It is not enough to be technically correct or ultimately accurate. A lender's affirmative obligations start before a relationship with a potential borrower exists.