New Car Lender Under Investigation for Misleading Customers

Inside Subprime: Oct 17, 2018

By Lindsay Frankel

A major auto loan provider  has resolved several lawsuits regarding deceptive business practices and is currently being investigated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Florida’s Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich has been looking into complaints about the lender for years; seventeen borrowers have reached out to Action 9 since 2016.

Most recently, a woman who took out an auto loan in Orlando, Florida told Action 9 that she still owes a huge balance for a loan she has been paying off for five years. Lindsay Puello took out a six-year loan with exorbitant interest rates for her 2013 Kia Rio. Now, with a year left, she is coming to realize her mistake. She borrowed $18,000, and has paid back almost $19,000 over the last five years. Yet she still owes $14,000 to Santander.

“It seems so unfair to have to pay another $14,000 just to have the title in my hand,” Puello said.

Santander is known to target consumers with bad credit looking to buy a new car. Borrowers told Ulrich that they were still left with a hefty balance after years of paying, with most of the money going toward interest. Now, the CFPB is reviewing claims that the auto lender deceived borrowers by providing misleading information about loan costs.

Santander explained to Ulrich that late fees and extensions cause increasing loan costs, while borrowers who make their payments on time will see a reduction in their balance. In a response, the lender wrote: “Regarding our customer, Lindsay Puello, I will have our customer service team look into her account. While privacy laws prevent us from commenting about a customer’s account – and I can’t comment on Lindsay Puello’s account – customers who consistently pay on time reduce their balance in accordance with their contract. If they have late fees or other payment extensions, it will take longer for them to pay off their account.”

The lender also added that it is “committed to robust compliance and consumer practices” when asked about the CFPB investigation.

A consumer’s best defense against predatory lenders is to be informed. While title loans, payday loans market themselves as fast cash, these loans also incur high interest and fees that make it difficult for borrowers to get out of debt. Title loans in Florida can end up costing borrowers up to 560 percent or more in annual interest. Borrowers should seek alternatives to these risky products whenever possible.

Action 9 has worked with many Santander customers to help recover their titles or lower their balances.

For information on predatory payday loans, check out all of our Florida Subprime Reports, including:

Jackson | Miami | Tampa