By Corinne M. Smith
On April 15, 2019, the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection announced a settlement with online personal-loan lender Avant LLC for $3.85 million. The FTC had accused Avant of engaging in a pattern of deceptive and unfair conduct regarding consumers’ payments and payment information, including falsely advertising that it would accept payment by credit or debit cards and then rejecting those forms of payment; withdrawing money from consumers’ accounts and charging their credit cards without authorization; improperly withdrawing consumers’ monthly payments twice or more in one month—in one instance, 11 times in a single day; and refusing to provide refunds and continuing to charge customers without authorization following customer complaints. The FTC further accused Avant of impermissibly requiring borrowers to agree to recurring automatic debits of their bank accounts as a condition of obtaining a loan. The FTC alleged violations of the following statutes and regulations: Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a); Section 310.4(a)(9) of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, 16 C.F.R. § 310.4(a)(9); Section 913(1) of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1693k(1); and Section 1005.10(e)(1) of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Regulation E, 12 C.F.R. § 1005.10(e)(1). The settlement order, filed in the Northern District of Illinois, permanently enjoins Avant from engaging in these unlawful practices, and it requires that the $3.85 million be returned to consumers who were harmed.