We get a lot of questions about UDAAP with the extra “A” so we thought we would revisit our post about it from the spring.
Among the many acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon in the consumer finance industry, there are the obvious ones, and then there the assemblages of characters that look like the results of random pounding on a keyboard. “UDAAP” falls into the second category—but it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks. In theory, at least, UDAAP is actually relatively straightforward.
UDAAP stands for “unfair, deceptive, or abuse acts and practices.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which regulates the consumer finance market, usually pluralizes the term—”UDAAPs”—when referring to these acts and practices collectively; others forgo the “s.” Either way, the CFPB decides what counts as a UDAAP and what doesn’t, based on the agency’s assessment of how the act or practice in question affects consumers.
The idea of UDAAP blossomed out of the 2008–2009 financial crisis. The term “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” appears 12 times in the text of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, primarily under Title X, which established the CFPB. Indeed, protecting consumers from UDAAPs has been a core objective of the CFPB since day 1.
What Counts as a UDAAP?
So, what qualifies as a UDAAP? How can you ensure your organization doesn’t engage in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices? For better or worse, that’s up to the CFPB. The agency has written that “[a]n act or practice is unfair when:
- It causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers;
- The injury is not reasonably avoidable by consumers; and
- The injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.”
If you think the list above is a recipe for broad, near-autocratic rule-making, you’re not alone. Critics have warned that unspecific UDAAP reasoning imparts the CFPB with unchecked authority, since what is and isn’t unfair, deceptive, or abusive is frequently a subjective question. And while the CFPB’s published guidance notes that “emotional impact and other subjective
types of harm will not ordinarily amount to substantial injury,” it leaves in some room for subjectivity: “[I]n certain circumstances emotional impacts may amount to or contribute to substantial injury. In addition, actual injury is not required; a significant risk of concrete harm is sufficient.”
Examples of UDAAPs
Statutory language aside, the CFPB’s list of examples of UDAAPs may better illustrate the agency’s reasoning in related enforcement actions. Some of the agency’s examples include…
- Failing to post payments timely or properly or to credit a consumer’s account with payments that the consumer submitted on time and then charging late fees to that consumer.
- Taking possession of property without the legal right to do so.
- Revealing the consumer’s debt, without the consumer’s consent, to the consumer’s employer and/or co-workers.
- Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.
You can find further examples here (PDF).
This is just a small peek at the wide, wild world of UDAAPs. For more information, as well as legal insights, make sure to check out our Resource Library.