TILA law: Truth in Lending $2,000.00 for violation, statutory damages; I paid more for the Audit ?? !!

8 Jan

TRUTH-IN-LENDING

DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS, VIOLATIONS, AND REMEDIES


PURPOSE OF THE TRUTH-IN-LENDING ACT (TILA)

TILA seeks to assure meaningful disclosure of credit terms and conditions that the consumer will be informed with accurate costs and benefits of their credit transaction, allowing them to shop for the best credit terms available on the market. 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a).

STANDARD OF LAW

Since TILA specifically remedial in nature, its provisions must be strictly construed. A creditor must comply with TILA in all credit transactions and “misleading disclosure is as much a violation of TILA as a failure to disclose at all.” Smith v. Chapman, 614 F.2d 968, 977 (5th Cir. 1980). It is not sufficient to attempt to comply with the Act, but rather, creditors are required to strictly comply with all the requirements of the Act. There is no need to show that the consumer was misled or deceived by ambiguous credit terms in order to prevail. Noel v. Fleet Finance, Inc., 971 F. Supp. 1102 (E.D. Mich. 1997).

Congress did not intend for creditors to escape liability for merely technical violations, that even minor or technical violations impose liability upon the creditors. Huff v. Steward-Gwinn Furniture Co., 713 F.2d 67, 69 (4th Cir. 1983). See also, Washington v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 2006 W.L. 1980201 (N.D. Ill.).

SCOPE

TILA applies to most consumer credit transactions and was specifically enacted to ensure accurate and meaningful disclosure of the charges involved in a transaction, allowing consumers to make their own decisions about obtaining a loan.

A lawsuit for violation of TILA may be based upon a lenders failure to comply with disclosure requirements. U.S.C. §§ 1631-34. Most of TILA violations involve the creditor’s failure to charge the correct amount, failure to disclose all the material terms, or failure to provide necessary forms or documents required by the Act.

TILA does not apply to the following transactions:

  1. Transactions that are made for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes. 15 U.S.C. § 1603(1); Reg. Z § 226.3(a)(1).
  2. Extensions of Credit to Organizations as opposed to natural persons. U.S.C. § 1603(1); Reg. Z. § 2026.3(a)(2).
  3. Credit over $25,000 Not Secured by Real Property or a Dwelling. U.S.C. § 1603(3); Reg. Z. § 226.3(b).
  4. Student Loans. U.S.C. § 1603(7); Reg. Z. § 226.3(f).
  5. Transactions under Public Utility Tariffs. U.S.C. § 1603(4); Reg. Z. § 226.3(c).
  6. Securities or Commodities transactions that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. U.S.C. § 1603(2); Reg. Z. § 226.3(d).

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

When a violation of TILA occurs, the one-year limitations period applicable to actions for statutory and actual damages begins to run. U.S.C. § 1641(e).

A TILA violation may occur at the consummation of the transaction between a creditor and its consumer if the transaction is made without the required disclosures.

A creditor may also violate TILA by engaging in fraudulent, misleading, and deceptive practices that conceal the TILA violation occurring at the time of closing. Often consumers do not discover any violation until after they have paid excessive charges imposed by their creditors. Consumers who later learn of the creditor’s TILA violations can allege an equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. When the consumer has an extended right to rescind or pursue other statutory remedies because a violation occurs, the statute of limitations for all the damages the consumers seek extends to three years from the date the violation is revealed. McIntosh v. Irwin Union Bank & Trust Co., 215 F.R.D. 26, 30 (D. Mass. 2003).

TILA AND REGULATION Z

Congress delegated authority for the implementation of TILA to the Federal Reserve Board (FRB). The Board of Governors (the Board) of the FRB interpreted TILA and promulgated a detailed and comprehensive set of rules that sets out the Board’s interpretation known as Regulation Z. Regulation Z is an official set of rules and most pleadings alleging TILA violations also alleging violations of Regulation Z as well.

DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS AND VIOLATIONS

  1. 1. Form Of Disclosure

TILA requires specific disclosures before the closing of a credit transaction. Disclosures must be “clear and conspicuously, in writing, in a form that the consumer may keep.” § 1632(a); § 226.5(a)(1).

Disclosure statement is a written document that a creditor is required to provide the consumer prior to closing, which contains TILA required material terms[1] related to the costs of the credit transaction. In this statement, a creditor must disclose to the person who is obligated on a consumer credit transaction the information required under TILA.

The Act calls for disclosures to be made in a manner that is reasonably to understand by ordinary persons. Most courts agree that “sufficiency of TILA mandated disclosures is to be viewed from the standpoint of an ordinary consumer, not the perspective of a Federal Reserve Board member, federal judge, or English professor.” Smith v. Cash Store Mgmt., 195 F.3d 325, 328 (7th Cir. 1999). Edmondson v. Allen-Russell Ford, Inc., 577 F.2d 291, 296 (5th Cir. 1978) (“we must assess the adequacy of disclosure […] by the audience for which disclosure was intended).

  1. a. Required Disclosures Must be Clear and Conspicuous. U.S.C. § 1632(a). Courts usually look at the particular Disclosure Statement and its content to determine whether it was sufficiently clear and conspicuous.

1)                  Creditor violates TILA for failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the requirements by disclosing required information in fine print. There was “nothing in the disclosure statement that would call a person’s attention to the relevant clause.” Violation found when disclosures were buried near the bottom of the form. Re Wright, 11 B.R. 590, 592 (S.D. Miss. 1981).

2)                  TILA violation found where a financial company fails to disclose the cost of credit life and disability insurance in the disclosure statement, making the interest of the loan appear less than its actual cost. Woods v. Beneficial Finance Co. of Eugene, 395 F. Supp. 9, 12 (DC Or 1975).

3)                  Disclosures are not clear and conspicuous when the disclosure statement includes contradicting terms. Varner v. Century Finance Co. Inc., 738 F.2d 1143 (11th Cir. 1984) (disclosing two different dollar amounts under the same heading is confusing). See also Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D 612, 618 (E.D. Wis. 2007) (Disclosure found unclear where the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure Statement shows the APR is 4.047 percent and other disclosure that “strongly implie[s] that the cost of the loan expressed as a yearly rate” at 1.950 percent); Ralls v. Bank of N.Y., 230 B.R. 508, 516 (E.D. Pa. 1999) (where there is a contradiction between TILA disclosures and other information provided by the lender, the disclosures are unclear).

  1. b. The terms “finance charge” and “annual percentage rate” (APR) shall be more conspicuous than any other terms. U.S.C. § 1632(a). These terms can be disclosed more conspicuously by using a contrasting type size or boldness and/or placing borders around them. Commentary § 226.5(a)(2)-2.

1)                  Violate for printing the terms “finance charge” and annual percentage rate” in the same typeface as other material terms. Brown v. Payday Check Advance, Inc., 202 F.3d 987, 990 (7th Cir. Ill. 2000). See also, Herrera v. First Northern Sav. & Loan Asso’n, 805 F.2d 896, 898 (NM 1986) (TILA violated when the term “annual percentage rate” appeared on the disclosure statement in identical size, style, and boldness with over 30 other terms and phrases).

2)                  No violation where the term “annual percentage rate” appears in a bolded box and is highlighted by all capital and bolded letter.” Robinson v. First Franklin Financial Corp., 2006 WL 2540777 (E.D. Pa.).

  1. c. TILA disclosures must be grouped together and segregated from all unrelated information. U.S.C. § 1632(a). Disclosures must be organized in the contrast so that each section of the disclosure statement is complete without any extra information that confuses the consumers. Reg. Z. § 226.5(b)(1).

1)                  A paragraph at the bottom of the contract referring to the “property described above” is ambiguous and does not comply with the requirement that disclosures be grouped together. Leathers v. Toyota-Volvo, 824 F. Supp. 155 (C.D. Ill. 1993). See also, In re Cook, 76 B.R. 661, 663 (C.D. Ill. 1987) (information in the disclosure statement referred back and forth violates TILA, because the required disclosures must be simplified and grouped in a single location and segregated from everything else).

2)                  Failure to disclose time of payment in the disclosure statement violates TILA because “the timing of payments […] must be grouped with the other required disclosure” such as number of payments and amount of payments. Jones v. Ameriquest Mort. Co., 2006 WL 273545 (N.D. Ill.). See Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D at 617 (the creditor listed the period of payments in a different place than the number and amount of payments violate TILA requires to group related information together).

  1. d. Additional information. Lenders can include additional information on the disclosure statement so long as the additional information relates to the required disclosures. U.S.C. § 1632(b).

1)                  Disclosure of an additional interest rate of 1.950 percent, which only applied to the first monthly payment, in the disclosure statement is violation, because it causes the loan to “appear more attractive than it actually was and serve no useful purpose.” Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D at 620.

2)                  Additional information setting out the Note Rate disclosed on the Disclosure Statement found “helpful and important to consumers.” Smith v. Anderson, 801 F.2d 661, 663 (Ct. App. Va. 1986).

  1. e. The home equity brochure published by the Board or a suitable substitute shall be provided. U.S.C. § 1637A(e). Creditors are required to provide the consumer with a brochure prepared by the FRB describing the home equity plans. If a creditor provides a substitute brochure, the brochure must be comparable to the Board’s brochure in substance and comprehensiveness. Reg. Z. § 226.5b(e)-1. When a third party has provided the consumer with a brochure, the creditor does not have to give the consumer a second copy of the brochure. Reg. Z. § 226.5b(e)-2.
  2. 2. Time of Disclosures: “The disclosures and brochure required … shall be provided at the time an application is provided to the consumer.”
    1. a. Creditor failed to provide the consumer disclosure statement at the consummation of the credit transaction violates TILA. Family Fed. Sav. & Loan v. Davis, 172 B.R. 437 (D.C. 1994); In re Schweizer, 354 B.R. 272, 281 (Id. 2006).
    2. b. No Violation where the creditor presents to the consumer, prior to the consummation of the credit transaction, a contract with multiple copies and allows the consumer to keep one of the copies before signing the contract. Queen v. Lynch Jewelers, LLC, 55 P.3d 914, 916 (Kan. App. 2002).
  3. 3. Required Disclosures for Open-End Credit Plan

TILA requires the following information to be disclosed, to the extent applicable. U.S.C. § 1637(a).

  1. a. Disclosure of the Finance Charge Accrual Date: The conditions under which a finance charge may be imposed together with either the time period, if any in which the customer may pay without incurring additional finance charges or there is no free ride period. Reg. Z. § 226.6(a)(1).
  2. b. Disclosure of the Periodic Rate, Range of Balances, and APR: For each period, a creditor must disclose the periodic rate that will be used to compute the finance charge; the balances to which the rate is applied; the corresponding nominal annual percentage rate; if deferent rates apply to different types of transactions, they must be disclosed; and penalty rate and possible conditions that trigger the penalty rate. Reg. Z. § 226.6(a)(2).
  3. c. Disclosure of the Periodic Rate, Range of Balances, and APR: The method used to determine the balance on which the finance charged is imposed, and a complex method calls for a more detailed explanation. Reg. Z. § 226.6(a)(3).
  4. d. Disclosure of the Finance Charge Amount: The method used to determine the amount of finance charge, including any minimum or fixed amount. Reg. Z. § 226.6(a)(4).
  5. e. Disclosure of Charges Other than Finance Charge: Identification of other charges which may be imposed and their method of computation in accordance with the FRB regulations. Significant charges such as membership fees, late charges, default charges, charges for exceeding the credit limit of an account, fee for providing copies of documents, taxes imposed on the credit transaction, real estate charges, and other charges must be disclosed. Reg. Z. §§ 226.6(b), 226.4.
  6. f. Disclosure of Security Interest: If a security interest will be secured in connection with the transaction, the collateral must be identified, even if the property is not owed by the consumer. Reg. Z. § 26.2(a)(25).
  7. g. Disclosure of Billing Error Right: A statement as to billing error rights and the right to assert claims and defenses in a form prescribed by the FRB must be provided to the consumer at the consummation of a transaction. Reg. Z. § 226.2(a)(d).
  8. 4. Required Disclosures of Residential Mortgage Transactions

Most home mortgages are subject to the disclosure requirements of TILA. U.S.C. § 1638. The required disclosures must be provided to the homeowner prior to the consummation of a credit transaction. Homeowners have the right to rescind most credit transactions, including home equity loans and home improvement loans, in which the home is taken as collateral.

  1. a. Disclosure of the Creditor: The name of the creditor must be provided and the address and/or telephone number are not required but may be included. U.S.C. § 1602(f); Reg. Z. § 226.2(a)(17).

Failure to disclose of the creditor’s identity properly entitles the consumer only actual damages, if any.

  1. b. Amount Financed: This term must be used in disclosure statement, and a brief description of the amount financed must be provided. U.S.C. § 1638(a)(2)(A).

Failures to properly disclose the amount financed gives rise to statutory damages, attorney’s fees, and any actual damages. Reg. Z. § 1640(a)(3). Its violation may also extend the consumer’s right to rescind. U.S.C. § 1602(u); Reg. Z. § 226.23 n. 48.

  1. c. Finance Charge: The term “finance charge” must be used and A brief description must be provided. U.S.C. § 1638(a)(3); Reg. Z. § 226.18(d). It can be disclosed only as a total amount, and there is no requirement to itemize finance charge, and overstating finance charge does not violate TILA. Vandenbroeck v. Commonpoint Mortg. Co., 22 F.Supp. 2d 677 (W.D. Mich. 1998).

In real estate closing charges, fees may be excluded from the finance charge are real property and title-related fees; document fees; closing agent, attorney fees; and notary, appraisal, and credit report fees. U.S.C. § 1605(e); Reg. Z. § 226.4(c)(7).

  1. d. APR: The term must be used and disclosure must be accurate. U.S.C. §1638(a)(4); Reg. Z. §§ 226.18(e). The APR is accurately disclosed when it is not more than 1/8 of 1 percentage point (.125%) above or below the actual APR. In variable-rate transactions, the description must inform the consumer that the interest rate is subject to change. A historical example illustrating the effects of interest rate changes implemented according to the loan program may be provided to the borrowers. U.S.C. § 1638(a)(14); Reg. Z. § 226.18(f).

Improper disclosure of the APR is a material violation of TILA that extends the consumer’s right to rescind. U.S.C. § 1602(u); Reg. Z. § 226.23 n 48. Statutory damage, attorney’s fee, and actual damage are also available. U.S.C. § 1640(a)(3).

  1. e. Payment Schedule: Payment schedule includes the number of payments, the amount of each payment, and the timing of payments scheduled to repay the obligation. U.S.C. § 1638(5)-(6); Reg. Z. § 226.18(g). Failure to disclose that payments were due monthly violates TILA. Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D. at 617.

Violation of these requirements entitles the consumer statutory damages, attorney’s fees, and actual damages. U.S.C. § 1640(a)(3) Improper disclosure is also a material violation for purposes of rescission. U.S.C. § 1602(u); U.S.C. § 1602(u); Reg. Z. § 226.23 n 48.

  1. f. Total Sale Price in a Sale of Property: The total of the cash price of the property or services, additional charges, and the finance charge must be disclosed. U.S.C. § 1638(a)(7). Reg. Z. § 226.18(j). Actual damages may be available for violation to disclose this factor. U.S.C. § 1640(a).
  2. g. A statement regarding the taking of the security interest in the property: The creditor must disclose whether it acquires a security interest in the property being purchased, or in other property, as part of the transaction.

Violate this requirement will give rise to statutory damages, attorney’s fees, and actual damages. U.S.C. § 1640(a)(3).

  1. h. Late charges: The dollar amount or the percentage charge may be imposed for late charge. U.S.C. § 1638(a)(10); Reg. Z. § 226.18(l). Actual damages may be available for failure to state the late charges. U.S.C. § 1640(a).
  2. i. Any Rebate Available: Any funds given to the consumer must be disclose whether it is in the form of cash, check, deposit in a savings or checking account. Reg. Z. § 226.18(r). Actual damages may be available for this violation. U.S.C. § 1640(a).
  3. j. Disclosure of Reference to Additional Documents: Information regarding nonpayment, default, and the right to accelerate the maturity of the debt. Prepayment rebates and penalties are not required to be disclosed to simplify the closing process. Instead, the creditor can provide appropriate documents that consumer could refer to. Reg. Z. § 226.17(a)(4). Actual damages may be available for failure to disclose this requirement. U.S.C. § 1640(a).
  4. 5. Required Disclosures for Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), which secured by the borrower’s principal dwelling with a maturity longer than one year, are required to be disclosed with additional information. To simplify disclosure requirements for variable rate loans, creditors may disclose any variable rate transaction applying the ARMs disclosure rule. However, the reverse is not allowed. Reg. Z. § 226.18(f); 52 Fed. Reg. 48665 (Dec. 24, 1987).

Failure to disclose properly and accurately the requirements of variable rate loans entitles the consumer statutory and actual damages and also rescission right. In re Fidler, 210 B.R. 411 (D. Mass. 1997).

  1. a. Rate Cap Disclosure: The maximum interest rate that may be imposed during the term of the obligation must be disclosed to the borrower. Reg. Z. § 226.30(a); Fed. Reg. 45611 (Dec. 1, 1987).
  2. b. ARM brochure: The Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages, published by the Board and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, may be provided to the consumer to fulfill this requirement. Creditors can also provide a suitable consumer handbook that is comparable to the Board’s Consumer Handbook in substance and comprehensiveness. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(1).
  3. c. Timing of Disclosures: The required disclosures and the Consumer Handbook must be provided to the borrower when an application form is furnished or before the payment of a non-refundable fee is made, whichever earlier. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b). Where the borrower receives the application by mail or a third party agent, the required information must be placed in the mail or delivered within three business days. Reg. Z. § 226.19 (b), n. 45b.
  4. d. Specific Disclosures Required for Variable Rate Loan: Major aspects of the variable rate loan program, which the consumer is considering, must be specifically disclosed.

1)                  The Index: Identification of the index will be used to calculate the interest rate and a brief description of the method used in calculating the interest rate are required by the Regulation. § 226.19(b)(2)(ii).

2)                  Current Margin Value and Interest Rate: A statement must be provided to the consumer suggesting the consumer ask for the current margin and interest rate. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(2)(iv).

3)                  Frequency of rate change and payment adjustment must be disclosed. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(2)(vi).

4)                  Negative Amortization: A statement to inform the consumer the consequences of negative amortization. A creditor must disclose the rules relating to the option, including the effects of exercising the option such as the increase of interest rate will occur and the payment amount will increase. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(2)(vii); commentary § 226.19(2). Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D at 620 (no violation found where the creditor informs the borrowers what will occur when the interest rate increases).

5)                  Conversion Feature: If the loan has a conversion feature, the amount of fees will be charge and the method of the fixed rate interest to be determined must be disclosed. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(2)(vii)-3.

  1. e. Historical Example Disclosure: Creditors have the option to disclose the maximum interest rate and payment amount for a $10,000 loan amount or the historical example of changes in the index being used. U.S.C. § 1638; Reg. Z. 226.9(b)(2)(viii). If the former method is used, a statement that the periodic payment may increase or decrease substantially. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b)(2)(viii)(B).
  2. f. Subsequent Disclosures: Disclosures concerning rate adjustments are required for all variable rate loans. Reg. Z. § 226.19(b). Notice of the adjusted payment amount, interest rate, index rate, and loan balance is required to disclose to the borrower in a timely manner. Reg. Z. § 226.20(c)(1)-(4).

If payment adjustment may accompany interest rate adjustment, creditors are required to send borrowers notice at least 25, but not more than 120, days prior to the due date of a payment at the new interest rate. Notice is required to be sent to borrowers whenever there is an adjustment in interest rate. Reg. Z. § 226.20(c).

If interest rate adjustments are made without a corresponding payment adjustment, the notice can be sent to the borrower once a year. Id.

Incorrect adjustment or used of index value or incorrect disclosing the new payment amount that does not comport with the contract terms violate TILA requirements, giving rise to statutory and actual damages. U.S.C. § 1640(a).

Statue of limitations for an affirmative violation is “one year from the date of the occurrence of the violation” that starts running when the erroneous notice is sent. U.S.C. § 1604(e).

  1. 6. Required Disclosure of Rescission Rights: Rescission rights arise when the transaction is a consumer credit transaction, in which a non-purchase lien or security interest is placed on the consumer’s principal dwelling unit. TILA rescission remedies reflect Congress’ intent to keep homeowners from placing their homes in jeopardy without a reasonably clear understanding of the financial risks and benefits of the transaction.
    1. a. Rescission right is vested in the owner of the property that is the subject of the security interest. Reg. Z. §§ 226.15(a)(1)(i), 226.15(b), 226.23(a)(1).
    2. b. The security interest must be the principal residence of the owner of the interest. Reg. Z. § 226.2(a)(11).
    3. c. Time of Delivery: The rescission notice may be given after consummation, though the rescission period does not begin to run until it is effectively delivered. Official Staff Commentary § 226.23(b)-4. It is not effectively delivered until it is given in a form the consumer can keep. Reg. Z. § 226.15(b). A written acknowledgement of receipt of rescission notice creates a rebuttable presumption of delivery. Cole v. Lovett, 672 F. Supp. 947 (S.D. Miss. 1987).
    4. d. Providing Rescission Notice: Each person who has the right to rescind a credit transaction must be provided two copies of rescission notice and the required disclosures in a credit transaction. U.S.C. § 1635(a); Reg. Z. §§ 226.5(b), 226.15(b). Notice of the right to rescind is also required for non-purchase money mortgages. U.S.C. § 1635(a). Giving the TILA notice and another notice of rescission at the same time, which have different rescission dates, confuses an ordinary consumer, violating the “clear and conspicuous” disclosure requirement. Jones v. Ameriquest.
    5. e. Time to Exercise Rescission Right: The consumers have until midnight of the third business day following the delivery of the rescission notice, the transaction, or the receiving of the Truth-In-Lending statement, whichever occurs last. See, Jones v. Ameriquest. Right to rescind can be exercised prior to the consummation of the loan. Community Mutual Sav. Bank v. Gillen, 655 N.Y.S.2d 271 (City Ct. 1997) (the consumer properly rescinds her loan at closing recovering fees paid to the creditor).

If the creditor fails to deliver the required notice of material disclosures, the consumer’s right to rescind is automatically extended from three business days to three years. Reg. Z. § 226.23(a)(3).

  1. f. Assignee’s Liability: An assignee is liable for statutory damages for violations by failure to disclosure TILA requirements by its predecessors and its own violation if it fails to respond properly to a rescission notice. Palmer v. Champion Mortg., 465 F.3d 24, 27 (1st Cir. 2006) (“if a creditor does not respond to a rescission request within twenty days, the debtor may file suit in federal court to enforce the rescission right). See also U.S.C. § 1635(b).
  2. g. Rescission Process: The consumer must send a written notice to the creditor to trigger the rescission process. When the notice of rescission has been mailed, the notice is considered given. Reg. Z. §§ 226.15(a)(2), 226.23(a)(2).

When the consumer rescinds, the security interest automatically becomes void. The consumer is relieved of any obligation to pay any finance charge or any other charge. U.S.C. § 1635(b); Reg. Z. §§ 226.15(d)(1), 226.23(d)(1). Rescission voids the mortgage and is a complete defense to foreclosure. Yslas v. K.K. Guenther Builders, Inc., 342 So.2d 859 (Fla.2d D.C.A. 1977). See Beach v. Great Western Bank, 670 So.2d 986 (Fla. 4th  D.C.A. 1996).

The creditor has twenty days from receipt of the consumer’s rescission notice to return any money or property given to anyone and to take appropriate and necessary action to reflect the termination of the security interest. U.S.C. § 1635(b); Reg. Z. §§ 226.15(d)(2), 226.23(d)(2).

After the creditor has complied with the preceding mandate, the consumer tenders back to the creditor any money or property received. U.S.C. § 1635(b); Reg. Z. §§ 226.15(d)(3), 226.23(d)(3).

OTHER AVAILABLE REMEDIES

Only creditors are subject to the civil penalties of TILA. U.S.C. § 1640(a). Civil damages are appropriate when disclosure requirements have been violated, and liability is imposed despite the creditor’s alleged good faith and reasonableness. Ratner v. Chemical Bank N.Y. Trust Co., 329 F. Supp. 270 (S.D.N.Y. 1971).

  1. 1. Statutory Damages

Violations of the general requirements and rescission requirements give rise to statutory damage claims. U.S.C. § 1640(a). For open-end credit transactions, statutory damages are awarded in the amount twice of the amount of finance charge. If the action arises out of a credit transaction secured by a dwelling, the consumer is entitled to a minimum award of $200 but not more than $2,000. U.S.C. § 1640(a)(2)(A)(i-iii). Only one statutory recovery is allowed even there are multiple disclosure violations in a transaction. U.S.C. § 1640(g).

  1. 2. Attorney’s Fees

Consumers are awarded attorney’s fees in a successful action or when they are “determined to have a right of rescission under section 1635,” even if the consumer is not obligated to pay his or her attorney. U.S.C. § 1640(3); Andrews v. Chevy Chase Bank, 240 F.R.D. at 621 (“because […] plaintiffs have a right of rescission, they are entitled to attorneys’ fees”); Kessler v. Associates Financial Servs. Co. of HI, Inc., 639 F.2d 498, 499 (C.A. Hi. 1981) (attorney’s fees are awarded even the plaintiffs are represented without charge by legal services attorneys). Attorney’s fees include the cost of the action and “a reasonable attorney’s fee as determined by the court.” U.S.C. § 1640(3).

  1. 3. Actual Damages

A consumer is entitled for actual damages when a creditor fails to comply with the requirements imposed by TILA, in the amount equal to the sum of any actual damage sustained by the consumer as a result of the creditor’s violation. U.S.C. § 1640(a)(1). Courts may require the consumer to show actual reliance upon the accuracy of the disclosures in order to claim actual damages. Perrone v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 232 F.3d 433, 435-439 (5th Cir. 2000); Peters v. Jim Lupient Oldsmobile Co., 220 F.3d 915, 917 (8th Cir. 2000) (detrimental reliance is established when the plaintiff shows that she read and understood the disclosures and that if the disclosures have been accurate, she would have sought and obtained a lower loan).


[1] Material terms are annual percentage rate, finance charge, method of determining the finance charge and the balance, amount financed, total of payments, the number and amount of payments, due dates or periods of payments scheduled to repay the indebtedness. U.S.C. § 1602(u); Reg. Z. § 226.23 n. 48.

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