Compliance Blog

Don’t You Forget About Us: Prohibitions and Limitations under Regulation Z

Written by Jennifer Aguilar, Regulatory Compliance Counsel

As compliance folks in the post-Dodd–Frank Era, we sometimes get so caught up with what must be disclosed that it's easy to overlook some of the prohibitions and limitations buried in the consumer regulations. Today's post is a roundup of questions that touch on some of the prohibitions and limitations for open-end credit products.

Our credit union would like to increase the late fee for our HELOCs, are there any regulatory issues with this increase?

Section 1026.40(f)(3) generally prohibits credit unions from changing any term on an open-end home equity plan. The commentary explains that this rule prohibits credit unions from increasing fees and imposing new fees once the plan is opened. This rule covers all the plans terms, not just those terms that must be disclosed under Regulation Z.

The rule does, however, provide a number of limited exceptions to this general prohibition. One of these exceptions allows credit unions to change a term as long as it obtains the member's consent. The commentary further explains that the member must expressly agree to the stated change in writing at the time the change is made and that continued use of the credit plan does not constitute consent.

Section 1026.9(c)(1) requires a 15-day advance notice if the credit union changes any term required to be disclosed under section 1026.6(a). Section 1026.6(a) requires credit unions to disclose all finance charges and any other charges that may be imposed as part of the plan. The commentary to paragraph 6(a)(2) specifically includes late fees as other charges imposed as part of the plan, so advance notice is required. The notice must be in writing and sent to each affected member at least 15 days prior to the effective date of the change.

Our credit union would like to start charging member's a fee for paying their credit card by phone. Can we do this?

For credit card accounts, section 1026.10(e) prohibits credit unions from charging a fee to make a payment by any particular method, including payment by phone. However, if the payment method involves an expedited service by a customer service representative, then credit unions may charge a fee for that payment method. This rule covers both fees charged by the credit union as well as fees charges by a third party that collects or processes payments on the credit union's behalf.

The commentary explains that "expedited" means that the credit union actually credits payment the same day or the next day if the payment is received after the established cut-off time. The commentary goes on to explain that "service by a customer service representative" requires the payment transaction be made with the help of a live representative. An automated system is not "service by a customer service representative," but credit unions may use an automated system for a portion of the transaction as long as a live representative is involved with the transaction.

We heard recently that LIBOR may come to an end sometime in the future. We use the 6-month LIBOR as the index for our variable-rate HELOCs. Can we change to a new index now?

For open-end home equity lines of credit, section 1026.40(f)(3) states that a credit union may change the index on a plan only if three conditions are met: (1) the original index is no longer available, (2) the new index's historical movements are substantially similar to the original index, and (3) the new index and margin will result in a rate substantially similar to the rate in effect at the time the original index became unavailable. The commentary reiterates that the original index must actually be unavailable before a credit union may select a new index.

Credit Cards HELOC Reg Z