Fixing Consumer Protection Law So Borrowers Understand Their Payment Obligations

by Jeff Sovern

The Journal of Consumer Affairs published my paper, Fixing Consumer Protection Laws So Borrowers Understand Their Payment Obligations, 48 Journal Consumer Affairs 17 (2014). Here is the abstract:

The millions of consumers who defaulted on their mortgages in recent years should all have received disclosures mandated by the federal Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), which requires that lenders inform borrowers of certain loan terms including monthly payments required. Yet many of those borrowers seem not to have understood what their payment obligations were. In fact, TILA, which was intended to enable consumers to borrow wisely, not only failed the subprime borrowers in that goal, but was interpreted to require lenders to provide misleading disclosures that might have persuaded borrowers that their loans were more affordable than they would turn out to be. This article attempts to substantiate the claim that the laws in place during the years in which the subprime loan buildup occurred did not provide the aid consumers needed in making borrowing decisions, and explores strategies to improve the disclosure environment.