Limitations on Terms of Consumer Credit Extended to Service Members and Dependents (under Military Lending Act)

Reg info: 
[Title 32 (National Defense), Subchapter M (Miscellaneous); 32 CFR Part 232] — Implements the Military Lending Act, 10 U.S.C. 987
Issuing Agency: 
Other / Misc

§ 232.1 Authority, purpose, and coverage.

(a) Authority. This part is issued by the Department of Defense to implement 10 U.S.C. 987.

(b) Purpose. The purpose of this part is to impose limitations on the cost and terms of certain defined extensions of consumer credit to Service members and their dependents, and to provide additional consumer disclosures for such transactions.

(c) Coverage. This part defines the types of consumer credit transactions, creditors, and borrowers covered by the regulation, consistent with the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 987. In addition, the regulation:

(1) Provides the maximum allowable amount of all charges, and the types of charges, that may be associated with a covered extension of consumer credit;

(2) Requires creditors to disclose to covered borrowers the cost of the transaction as a total dollar amount and as an annualized percentage rate referred to as the Military Annual Percentage Rate or MAPR, which must be disclosed before the borrower becomes obligated on the transaction. The disclosures required by this regulation differ from and are in addition to the disclosures that must be provided to consumers under the Federal Truth in Lending Act;

(3) Provides for the method creditors shall use in calculating the MAPR, and;

(4) Contains such other criteria and limitations as the Secretary of Defense has determined appropriate, consistent with the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 987

§ 232.2 - Applicability.

This part applies to consumer credit extended by creditors to a covered borrower, as those terms are defined in this part.

§ 232.3 - Definitions.

As used in this part:

(a) Affiliate means any person that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with another person.

(b) Billing cycle has the same meaning as “billing cycle” in Regulation Z.

(c) Bureau means the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

(d) Closed-end credit means consumer credit (but for the conditions applicable to consumer credit under this part) other than consumer credit that is “open-end credit” as that term is defined in Regulation Z.

(e) Consumer means a natural person.

(f)(1) Consumer credit means credit offered or extended to a covered borrower primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and that is:

(i) Subject to a finance charge; or

(ii) Payable by a written agreement in more than four installments.

(2) Exceptions. Notwithstanding paragraph (f)(1) of this section, consumer credit does not mean:

(i) A residential mortgage, which is any credit transaction secured by an interest in a dwelling, including a transaction to finance the purchase or initial construction of the dwelling, any refinance transaction, home equity loan or line of credit, or reverse mortgage;

(ii) Any credit transaction that is expressly intended to finance the purchase of a motor vehicle when the credit is secured by the vehicle being purchased;

(iii) Any credit transaction that is expressly intended to finance the purchase of personal property when the credit is secured by the property being purchased;

(iv) Any credit transaction that is an exempt transaction for the purposes of Regulation Z (other than a transaction exempt under 12 CFR 1026.29) or otherwise is not subject to disclosure requirements under Regulation Z; and

(v) Any credit transaction or account for credit for which a creditor determines that a consumer is not a covered borrower by using a method and by complying with the recordkeeping requirement set forth in § 232.5(b).

(g)(1) Covered borrower means a consumer who, at the time the consumer becomes obligated on a consumer credit transaction or establishes an account for consumer credit, is a covered member (as defined in paragraph (g)(2) of this section) or a dependent (as defined in paragraph (g)(3) of this section) of a covered member.

(2) The term “covered member” means a member of the armed forces who is serving on—

(i) Active duty pursuant to title 10, title 14, or title 32, United States Code, under a call or order that does not specify a period of 30 days or fewer; or

(ii) Active Guard and Reserve duty, as that term is defined in 10 U.S.C. 101(d)(6).

(3) The term “dependent” with respect to a covered member means a person described in subparagraph (A), (D), (E), or (I) of 10 U.S.C. 1072(2).

(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (g)(1) of this section, covered borrower does not mean a consumer who (though a covered borrower at the time he or she became obligated on a consumer credit transaction or established an account for consumer credit) no longer is a covered member (as defined in paragraph (g)(2) of this section) or a dependent (as defined in paragraph (g)(2) of this section) of a covered member.

(h) Credit means the right granted to a consumer by a creditor to defer payment of debt or to incur debt and defer its payment.

(i) Creditor, except as provided in § 232.8(a), (f), and (g), means a person who is:

(1) Engaged in the business of extending consumer credit; or

(2) An assignee of a person described in paragraph (i)(1) of this section with respect to any consumer credit extended.

(3) For the purposes of this definition, a creditor is engaged in the business of extending consumer credit if the creditor considered by itself and together with its affiliates meets the transaction standard for a “creditor” under Regulation Z with respect to extensions of consumer credit to covered borrowers.

(j) Department means the Department of Defense.

(k) Dwelling means a residential structure that contains one to four units, whether or not the structure is attached to real property. The term includes an individual condominium unit, cooperative unit, mobile home, and manufactured home.

(l) Electronic fund transfer has the same meaning as in the regulation issued by the Bureau to implement the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, as amended from time to time (12 CFR part 1005).

(m) Federal credit union has the same meaning as “Federal credit union” in the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1752(1)).

(n) Finance charge has the same meaning as “finance charge” in Regulation Z.

(o) Insured depository institution has the same meaning as “insured depository institution” in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1813(c)).

(p) Military annual percentage rate (MAPR). The MAPR is the cost of the consumer credit expressed as an annual rate, and shall be calculated in accordance with § 232.4(c).

(q) Open-end credit means consumer credit that (but for the conditions applicable to consumer credit under this part) is “open-end credit” under Regulation Z.

(r) Person means a natural person or organization, including any corporation, partnership, proprietorship, association,cooperative, estate, trust, or government unit.

(s) Regulation Z means any rules, or interpretations thereof, issued by the Bureau to implement the Truth in Lending Act, as amended from time to time, including any interpretation or approval issued by an official or employee duly authorized by the Bureau to issue such interpretations or approvals. However, for any provision of this part requiring a creditor to comply with Regulation Z, a creditor who is subject to Regulation Z (12 CFR part 226) issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System must continue to comply with 12 CFR part 226. Words that are not defined in this part have the same meanings given to them in Regulation Z (12 CFR part 1026) issued by the Bureau, as amended from time to time, including any interpretation thereof by the Bureau or an official or employee of the Bureau duly authorized by the Bureau to issue such interpretations. Words that are not defined in this part or Regulation Z, or any interpretation thereof, have the meanings given to them by State or Federal law.

(t) Short-term, small amount loan means a closed-end loan that is—

(1) Subject to and made in accordance with a Federal law (other than 10 U.S.C. 987) that expressly limits the rate of interest that a Federal credit union or an insured depository institution may charge on an extension of credit, provided that the limitation set forth in that law is comparable to a limitation of an annual percentage rate of interest of 36 percent; and

(2) Made in accordance with the requirements, terms, and conditions of a rule, prescribed by the appropriate Federal regulatory agency (or jointly by such agencies), that implements the Federal law described in paragraph (t)(1) of this section, provided further that such law or rule contains—

(i) A fixed numerical limit on the maximum maturity term, which term shall not exceed 9 months; and

(ii) A fixed numerical limit on any application fee that may be charged to a consumer who applies for such closed-end loan.

§ 232.4 Terms of consumer credit extended to covered borrowers.

(a) General conditions. A creditor who extends consumer credit to a covered borrower may not require the covered borrower to pay an MAPR for the credit with respect to such extension of credit, except as:

(1) Agreed to under the terms of the credit agreement or promissory note;

(2) Authorized by applicable State or Federal law; and

(3) Not specifically prohibited by this part.

(b) Limit on cost of consumer credit. A creditor may not impose an MAPR greater than 36 percent in connection with an extension of consumer credit that is closed-end credit or in any billing cycle for open-end credit.

(c) Calculation of the MAPR.—(1) Charges included in the MAPR. The charges for the MAPR shall include, as applicable to the extension of consumer credit:

(i) Any credit insurance premium or fee, any charge for single premium credit insurance, any fee for a debt cancellation contract, or any fee for a debt suspension agreement;

(ii) Any fee for a credit-related ancillary product sold in connection with the credit transaction for closed-end credit or an account for open-end credit; and

(iii) Except for a bona fide fee (other than a periodic rate) which may be excluded under paragraph (d) of this section:

(A) Finance charges associated with the consumer credit;

(B) Any application fee charged to a covered borrower who applies for consumer credit, other than an application fee charged by a Federal credit union or an insured depository institution when making a short-term, small amount loan, provided that the application fee is charged to the covered borrower not more than once in any rolling 12-month period; and

(C) Any fee imposed for participation in any plan or arrangement for consumer credit, subject to paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(B) of this section.

(iv) Certain exclusions of Regulation Z inapplicable. Any charge set forth in paragraphs (c)(1)(i) through (iii) of this section shall be included in the calculation of the MAPR even if that charge would be excluded from the finance charge under Regulation Z.

(2) Computing the MAPR—(i) Closed-end credit. For closed-end credit, the MAPR shall be calculated following the rules for calculating and disclosing the "Annual Percentage Rate (APR)" for credit transactions under Regulation Z based on the charges set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(ii) Open-end credit—(A) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, for open-end credit, the MAPR shall be calculated following the rules for calculating the effective annual percentage rate for a billing cycle as set forth in § 1026.14(c) and (d) of Regulation Z (as if a creditor must comply with that section) based on the charges set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. Notwithstanding § 1026.14(c) and (d) of Regulation Z, the amount of charges related to opening, renewing, or continuing an account must be included in the calculation of the MAPR to the extent those charges are set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(B) No balance during a billing cycle. For open-end credit, if the MAPR cannot be calculated in a billing cycle because there is no balance in the billing cycle, a creditor may not impose any fee or charge during that billing cycle, except that the creditor may impose a fee for participation in any plan or arrangement for that open-end credit so long as the participation fee does not exceed $100 per annum, regardless of the billing cycle in which the participation fee is imposed; provided, however, that the $100-per annum limitation on the amount of the participation fee does not apply to a bona fide participation fee imposed in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.

(d) Bona fide fee charged to a credit card account—(1) In general. For consumer credit extended in a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, a bona fide fee, other than a periodic rate, is not a charge required to be included in the MAPR pursuant to paragraph (c)(1) of this section. The exclusion provided for any bona fide fee under this paragraph (d) applies only to the extent that the charge by the creditor is a bona fide fee, and must be reasonable for that type of fee.

(2) Ineligible items. The exclusion for bona fide fees in paragraph (d)(1) of this section does not apply to—

(i) Any credit insurance premium or fee, including any charge for single premium credit insurance, any fee for a debt cancellation contract, or any fee for a debt suspension agreement; or

(ii) Any fee for a credit-related ancillary product sold in connection with the credit transaction for closed-end credit or an account for open-end credit.

(3) Standards relating to bona fide fees—(i) Like-kind fees. To assess whether a bona fide fee is reasonable under paragraph (d)(1) of this section, the fee must be compared to fees typically imposed by other creditors for the same or a substantially similar product or service. For example, when assessing a bona fide cash advance fee, that fee must be compared to fees charged by other creditors for transactions in which consumers receive extensions of credit in the form of cash or its equivalent. Conversely,when assessing a foreign transaction fee, that fee may not be compared to a cash advance fee because the foreign transaction fee involves the service of exchanging the consumer's currency (e.g., a reserve currency) for the local currency demanded by a merchant for a good or service, and does not involve the provision of cash to the consumer.

(ii) Safe harbor. A bona fide fee is reasonable under paragraph (d)(1) of this section if the amount of the fee is less than or equal to an average amount of a fee for the same or a substantially similar product or service charged by 5 or more creditors each of whose U.S. credit cards in force is at least $3 billion in an outstanding balance (or at least $3 billion in loans on U.S. credit card accounts initially extended by the creditor) at any time during the 3-year period preceding the time such average is computed.

(iii) Reasonable fee. A bona fide fee that is higher than an average amount, as calculated under paragraph (d)(3)(ii) of this section, also may be reasonable under paragraph (d)(1) of this section depending on other factors relating to the credit card account. A bona fide fee charged by a creditor is not unreasonable solely because other creditors do not charge a fee for the same or a substantially similar product or service.

(iv) Indicia of reasonableness for a participation fee. An amount of a bona fide fee for participation in a credit card account may be reasonable under paragraph (d)(1) of this section if that amount reasonably corresponds to the credit limit in effect or credit made available when the fee is imposed, to the services offered under the credit card account, or to other factors relating to the credit card account. For example, even if other creditors typically charge $100 per annum for participation in credit card accounts, a $400 fee nevertheless may be reasonable if (relative to other accounts carrying participation fees) the credit made available to the covered borrower is significantly higher or additional services or other benefits are offered under that account.

(4) Effect of charging fees on bona fide fees—(i) Bona fide fees treated separately from charges for credit insurance products or credit-related ancillary products. If a creditor imposes a fee described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section and imposes a finance charge to a covered borrower, the total amount of the fee(s) and finance charge(s) shall be included in the MAPR pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section, and the imposition of any fee or finance charge described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section shall not affect whether another type of fee may be excluded as a bona fide fee under this paragraph (d).

(ii) Effect of charges for non-bona fide fees. If a creditor imposes any fee (other than a periodic rate or a fee that must be included in the MAPR pursuant to paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that is not a bona fide fee and imposes a finance charge to a covered borrower, the total amount of those fees, including any bona fide fees, and other finance charges shall be included in the MAPR pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

(iii) Examples. (A) In a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan during a given billing cycle, Creditor A imposes on a covered borrower a fee for a debt cancellation product (as described in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section), a finance charge (as described in paragraph (c)(1)(iii)(A)), and a bona fide foreign transaction fee that qualifies for the exclusion under this paragraph (d). Only the fee for the debt cancellation product and the finance charge must be included when calculating the MAPR.

(B) In a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan during a given billing cycle, Creditor B imposes on a covered borrower a fee for a debt cancellation product (as described in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section), a finance charge (as described in paragraph (c)(1)(iii)(A)), a bona fide foreign transaction fee that qualifies for the exclusion under this paragraph (d), and a bona fide, but unreasonable cash advance fee. All of the fees—including the foreign transaction fee that otherwise would qualify for the exclusion under this paragraph (d)—and the finance charge must be included when calculating the MAPR.

(5) Rule of construction. Nothing in paragraph (d)(1) of this section authorizes the imposition of fees or charges otherwise prohibited by this part or by other applicable State or Federal law.

§ 232.5 Optional Identification of covered borrower.

(a) No restriction on method for covered-borrower check. A creditor is permitted to apply its own method to assess whether a consumer is a covered borrower.

(b) Safe harbor—(1) In general. A creditor may conclusively determine whether credit is offered or extended to a covered borrower, and thus may be subject to 10 U.S.C. 987 and the requirements of this part, by assessing the status of a consumer in accordance with this paragraph (b).

(2) Methods to check status of consumer—(i) Department database—(A) In general. To determine whether a consumer is a covered borrower, a creditor may verify the status of a consumer by using information relating to that consumer, if any, obtained directly or indirectly from the database maintained by the Department, available at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mla/welcome.xhtml. A search of the Department's database requires the entry of the consumer's last name, date of birth, and Social Security number.

(B) Historic lookback prohibited. At any time after a consumer has entered into a transaction or established an account involving an extension of credit, a creditor (including an assignee) may not, directly or indirectly, obtain any information from any database maintained by the Department to ascertain whether a consumer had been a covered borrower as of the date of that transaction or as of the date that account was established.

(ii) Consumer report from a nationwide consumer reporting agency. To determine whether a consumer is a covered borrower, a creditor may verify the status of a consumer by using a statement, code, or similar indicator describing that status, if any, contained in a consumer report obtained from a consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis, or a reseller of such a consumer report (as each of those terms is defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681a) and any implementing regulation (12 CFR part 1022)).

(3) Determination and recordkeeping; one-time determination permitted. A creditor who makes a determination regarding the status of a consumer by using one or both of the methods set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of this section shall be deemed to be conclusive with respect to that transaction or account involving consumer credit between the creditor and that consumer, so long as that creditor timely creates and thereafter maintains a record of the information so obtained. A creditor may make the determination described in this paragraph (b), and keep the record of that information obtained at that time, solely at the time—

(i) A consumer initiates the transaction or 30 days prior to that time;

(ii) A consumer applies to establish the account or 30 days prior to that time; or

(iii) The creditor develops or processes, with respect to a consumer, a firm offer of credit that (among the criteria used by the creditor for the offer) includes the status of the consumer as a covered borrower, so long as the consumer responds to that offer not later than 60 days after the time that the creditor had provided that offer to the consumer. If the consumer responds to the creditor's offer later than 60 days after the time that the creditor had provided that offer to the consumer, then the creditor may not rely upon its initial determination in developing or processing that offer, and, instead, may act on the consumer's response as if the consumer is initiating the transaction or applying to establish the account (as described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) or (ii) of this section).

Content Updated Date: 
7/24/2015

§ 232.6 Mandatory loan disclosures.

(a) Required information. With respect to any extension of consumer credit (including any consumer credit originated or extended through the internet) to a covered borrower, a creditor shall provide to the covered borrower the following information before or at the time the borrower becomes obligated on the transaction or establishes an account for the consumer credit:

(1) A statement of the MAPR applicable to the extension of consumer credit;

(2) Any disclosure required by Regulation Z, which shall be provided only in accordance with the requirements of Regulation Z that apply to that disclosure; and

(3) A clear description of the payment obligation of the covered borrower, as applicable. A payment schedule (in the case of closed-end credit) or account-opening disclosure (in the case of open-end credit) provided pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section satisfies this requirement.

(b) One-time delivery; multiple creditors. (1) The information described in paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(3) of this section are not required to be provided to a covered borrower more than once for the transaction or the account established for consumer credit with respect to that borrower.

(2) Multiple creditors. If a transaction involves more than one creditor, then only one of those creditors must provide the disclosures in accordance with this section. The creditors may agree among themselves which creditor may provide the information described in paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(3) of this section.

(c) Statement of the MAPR—(1) In general. A creditor may satisfy the requirement of paragraph (a)(1) of this section by describing the charges the creditor may impose, in accordance with this part and subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement, relating to the consumer credit to calculate the MAPR. Paragraph (a)(1) of this section shall not be construed as requiring a creditor to describe the MAPR as a numerical value or to describe the total dollar amount of all charges in the MAPR that apply to the extension of consumer credit.

(2) Method of providing a statement regarding the MAPR. A creditor may include a statement of the MAPR applicable to the consumer credit in the agreement with the covered borrower involving the consumer credit transaction. Paragraph (a)(1) of this section shall not be construed as requiring a creditor to include a statement of the MAPR applicable to an extension of consumer credit in any advertisement relating to the credit.

(3) Model statement. A statement substantially similar to the following statement may be used for the purpose of paragraph (a)(1) of this section: "Federal law provides important protections to members of the Armed Forces and their dependents relating to extensions of consumer credit. In general, the cost of consumer credit to a member of the Armed Forces and his or her dependent may not exceed an annual percentage rate of 36 percent. This rate must include, as applicable to the credit transaction or account: The costs associated with credit insurance premiums; fees for ancillary products sold in connection with the credit transaction; any application fee charged (other than certain application fees for specified credit transactions or accounts); and any participation fee charged (other than certain participation fees for a credit card account)."

(d) Methods of delivery—(1) Written disclosures. The creditor shall provide the information required by paragraphs (a)(1) and (3) of this section in writing in a form the covered borrower can keep.

(2) Oral disclosures. (i) In general. The creditor also shall orally provide the information required by paragraphs (a)(1) and (3) of this section.

(ii) Methods to provide oral disclosures. A creditor may satisfy the requirement in paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section if the creditor provides—

(A) The information to the covered borrower in person; or

(B) A toll-free telephone number in order to deliver the oral disclosures to a covered borrower when the covered borrower contacts the creditor for this purpose.

(iii) Toll-free telephone number on application or disclosure. If applicable, the toll-free telephone number must be included on—

(A) A form the creditor directs the consumer to use to apply for the transaction or account involving consumer credit; or

(B) A written disclosure the creditor provides to the covered borrower, pursuant to paragraph (d)(1) of this section.

(e) When disclosures are required for refinancing or renewal of covered loan. The refinancing or renewal of consumer credit requires new disclosures under this section only when the transaction for that credit would be considered a new transaction that requires disclosures under Regulation Z.

§ 232.7 Preemption.

(a) Inconsistent laws. 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part preempts any State or Federal law, rule or regulation, including any State usury law, to the extent such law, rule or regulation is inconsistent with this part, except that any such law, rule or regulation is not preempted by this part to the extent that it provides protection to a covered borrower greater than those protections provided by 10 U.S.C. 987 and this part.

(b) Different treatment under State law of covered borrowers is prohibited. States may not:

(1) Authorize creditors to charge covered borrowers rates of interest that are higher than the legal limit for residents of the State, or

(2) Permit the violation or waiver of any State consumer lending protection that is for the benefit of residents of the State on the basis of the covered borrower's nonresident or military status, regardless of the covered borrower's domicile or permanent home of record, provided that the protection would otherwise apply to the covered borrower.


Amendment Note: Effective October 1, 2015, with compliance required by October 3, 2016, Part 232 was amended. No changes were made to this section.

§ 232.8 Limitations.

Title 10 U.S.C. 987 makes it unlawful for any creditor to extend consumer credit to a covered borrower with respect to which:

(a) The creditor rolls over, renews, repays, refinances, or consolidates any consumer credit extended to the covered borrower by the same creditor with the proceeds of other consumer credit extended by that creditor to the same covered borrower. This paragraph shall not apply to a transaction when the same creditor extends consumer credit to a covered borrower to refinance or renew an extension of credit that was not covered by this paragraph because the consumer was not a covered borrower at the time of the original transaction. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “creditor” means a person engaged in the business of extending consumer credit subject to applicable law to engage in deferred presentment transactions or similar payday loan transactions (as described in the relevant law), provided however, that the term does not include a person that is chartered or licensed under Federal or State law as a bank, savings association, or credit union.

(b) The covered borrower is required to waive the covered borrower's right to legal recourse under any otherwise applicable provision of State or Federal law, including any provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. App. 501 et seq.).

(c) The creditor requires the covered borrower to submit to arbitration or imposes other onerous legal notice provisions in the case of a dispute.

(d) The creditor demands unreasonable notice from the covered borrower as a condition for legal action.

(e) The creditor uses a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower, except that, in connection with a consumer credit transaction with an MAPR consistent with § 232.4(b), the creditor may:

(1) Require an electronic fund transfer to repay a consumer credit transaction, unless otherwise prohibited by law;

(2) Require direct deposit of the consumer's salary as a condition of eligibility for consumer credit, unless otherwise prohibited by law; or

(3) If not otherwise prohibited by applicable law, take a security interest in funds deposited after the extension of credit in an account established in connection with the consumer credit transaction.

(f) The creditor uses the title of a vehicle as security for the obligation involving the consumer credit, provided however, that for the purposes of this paragraph, the term “creditor” does not include a person that is chartered or licensed under Federal or State law as a bank, savings association, or credit union.

(g) The creditor requires as a condition for the extension of consumer credit that the covered borrower establish an allotment to repay the obligation. For the purposes of this paragraph only, the term “creditor” shall not include a “military welfare society,” as defined in 10 U.S.C. 1033(b)(2), or a “service relief society,” as defined in 37 U.S.C. 1007(h)(4).

(h) The covered borrower is prohibited from prepaying the consumer credit or is charged a penalty fee for prepaying all or part of the consumer credit.

§ 232.9 Penalties and remedies.

(a) Misdemeanor. A creditor who knowingly violates 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part shall be fined as provided in title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

(b) Preservation of other remedies. The remedies and rights provided under 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part are in addition to and do not preclude any remedy otherwise available under State or Federal law or regulation to the person claiming relief under the statute, including any award for consequential damages and punitive damages.

(c) Contract void. Any credit agreement, promissory note, or other contract with a covered borrower that fails to comply with 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part or which contains one or more provisions prohibited under 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part is void from the inception of the contract.

(d) Arbitration. Notwithstanding 9 U.S.C. 2, or any other Federal or State law, rule, or regulation, no agreement to arbitrate any dispute involving the extension of consumer credit to a covered borrower pursuant to this part shall be enforceable against any covered borrower, or any person who was a covered borrower when the agreement was made.

(e) Civil liability—(1) In general. A person who violates 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part with respect to any person is civilly liable to such person for:

(i) Any actual damage sustained as a result, but not less than $500 for each violation;

(ii) Appropriate punitive damages;

(iii) Appropriate equitable or declaratory relief; and

(iv) Any other relief provided by law.

(2) Costs of the action. In any successful action to enforce the civil liability described in paragraph (e)(1) of this section, the person who violated 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part is also liable for the costs of the action, together with reasonable attorney fees as determined by the court.

(3) Effect of finding of bad faith and harassment. In any successful action by a defendant under this section, if the court finds the action was brought in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment, the plaintiff is liable for the attorney fees of the defendant as determined by the court to be reasonable in relation to the work expended and costs incurred.

(4) Defenses. A person may not be held liable for civil liability under paragraph (e) of this section if the person shows by a preponderance of evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error. Examples of a bona fide error include clerical, calculation, computer malfunction and programming, and printing errors, except that an error of legal judgment with respect to a person's obligations under 10 U.S.C. 987 as implemented by this part is not a bona fide error.

(5) Jurisdiction, venue, and statute of limitations. An action for civil liability under paragraph (e) of this section may be brought in any appropriate United States district court, without regard to the amount in controversy, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, not later than the earlier of:

(i) Two years after the date of discovery by the plaintiff of the violation that is the basis for such liability; or

(ii) Five years after the date on which the violation that is the basis for such liability occurs.

§ 232.10 Administrative enforcement.

The provisions of this part, other than § 232.9(a), shall be enforced by the agencies specified in section 108 of the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. 1607) in the manner set forth in that section or under any other applicable authorities available to such agencies by law.

§ 232.11 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections unaffected.

Nothing in this part may be construed to limit or otherwise affect the applicability of section 3937 and any other provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. 3927).

§ 232.12 Effective dates.

(a) In general. This regulation shall take effect October 1, 2015, except that, other than as provided in this section and in § 232.13(b)(1), nothing in this part shall apply to consumer credit that is extended to a covered borrower and consummated before October 3, 2016.

(b) Prior extensions of consumer credit. Consumer credit that is extended to a covered borrower and consummated any time between October 1, 2007, and October 3, 2016, is subject to the definitions, conditions, and requirements of this part as were established by the Department and effective on  October 1, 2007.

(c) New extensions of consumer credit. Except as provided in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section with respect to extensions of consumer credit under paragraph (b) of this section (and except as permitted by § 232.13(b)(1)), the requirements of this part that are effective as of October 1, 2015, shall apply only to a consumer credit transaction or account for consumer credit consummated or established on or after October 3, 2016.

(d) Provisions of 10 U.S.C. 987(d)(2). The amendments to 10 U.S.C. 987(d)(2) enacted in section 661(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Pub. L. 112-239, 126 Stat. 1785), as reflected in § 232.7(b), took effect on January 2, 2014.

(e) Civil liability remedies. The provisions set forth in § 232.9(e) shall apply with respect to consumer credit extended on or after January 2, 2013.

§ 232.13 Compliance dates.

(a) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, a creditor must comply with the requirements of this part, as may be applicable, with respect to a consumer credit transaction or account for consumer credit consummated or established on or after October 3, 2016, not later than that date.

(b) Safe harbors for identifying a covered borrower—(1) New safe harbors. Section 232.5 shall apply October 3, 2016.

(2) Prior safe harbor valid until general compliance date. The provisions relating to the identification of a covered borrower set forth in § 232.5(a) of the regulation established by the Department and effective on October 1, 2007 (including the interpretation by the Department that provides an exception from the safe harbor for the creditor's knowledge that the applicant is a covered borrower), shall remain in effect until October 3, 2016.

(c) Limited exemption for credit card account; reservation of authority—(1) In general. Notwithstanding § 232.3(f)(1) and subject to paragraph (c)(2) of this section, until October 3, 2017, consumer credit does not mean credit extended in a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan.

(2) Authority to issue an order to extend exemption. The Secretary, or an official of the Department duly authorized by the Secretary, may, by order, extend the expiration of the exemption set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, until a date not later than October 3, 2018.

Interpretive Rule: Questions and Answers

1. What types of overdraft products are within the scope of 32 CFR 232.3(f) defining “consumer credit”?

Answer: The MLA regulation generally directs creditors to look to provisions of TILA and its implementing regulation, Regulation Z, in determining whether a product or service is considered “consumer credit” for purposes of the MLA. Also, the supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule discusses coverage of overdraft products.

The MLA regulation defines “consumer credit” as credit offered or extended to a covered borrower primarily for personal, family or household purposes that is either subject to a finance charge or payable by a written agreement in more than four installments, with some exceptions. The exceptions include: Residential mortgage transactions; purchase money credit for a vehicle or personal property that is secured by the purchased vehicle or personal property; certain transactions exempt from Regulation Z (not including transactions exempt under 12 CFR 1026.29); and credit extended to non-covered borrowers consistent with 32 CFR 232.5(b). Although coverage by the MLA and the MLA regulation is not completely identical to that of TILA and Regulation Z, the July 2015 Final Rule amends the definition of consumer credit under the MLA to be more consistent with how credit is defined under TILA. The supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule states:

"As proposed, the Department is amending its regulation so that, in general, consumer credit covered under the MLA would be defined consistently with credit that for decades has been subject to TILA, namely: Credit offered or extended to a covered borrower primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and that is (i) subject to a finance charge or (ii) payable by a written agreement in more than four installments."

The MLA regulation also defines “closed-end credit” and “open-end credit” with express references to the definitions of the same terms in Regulation Z.

The supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule illustrates how to apply these standards specifically with respect to overdraft products and services. It states that consistent with Regulation Z, an overdraft line of credit with a finance charge is a covered consumer credit product when: It is offered to a covered borrower; the credit extended by the creditor is primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; it is used to pay an item that overdraws an asset account and results in a fee or charge to the covered borrower; and, the extension of credit for the item and the imposition of a fee were previously agreed upon in writing. The supplementary information further states that other types of overdraft products not pursuant to a written agreement typically are not covered consumer credit “because Regulation Z excludes from `finance charge' any charge imposed by a creditor for credit extended to pay an item that overdraws an asset account and for which the borrower pays any fee or charge, unless the payment of such an item and the imposition of the fee or charge were previously agreed upon in writing.”?

Thus, whether or not a particular overdraft product or service is “consumer credit” under the MLA regulation depends on whether the product or service meets each element of the definition of “consumer credit” and whether an exception applies.

2. [Updated 2/28/2020] Does credit that a creditor extends for the purpose of purchasing a motor vehicle or personal property, which secures the credit, fall within the exception to “consumer credit” under 32 CFR 232.3(f)(2)(iii) where the creditor simultaneously extends credit in an amount greater than the purchase price?

Answer: No. Section 232.3(f)(1) defines “consumer credit” as credit extended to a covered borrower primarily for personal, family, or household purposes that is subject to a finance charge or payable by written agreement in more than four installments. Section 232.3(f)(2) provides a list of exceptions to subparagraph (f)(1), including an exception for any credit transaction that is expressly intended to finance the purchase of personal property when the credit is secured by the property being purchased. A hybrid purchase money and cash advance loan is not expressly intended to finance the purchase of personal property, because the loan provides additional financing that is unrelated to the purchase. To qualify for the purchase money exception from the definition of consumer credit, a loan must finance only the acquisition of personal property. Any credit transaction that provides purchase money secured financing of personal property along with additional “cash-out” financing is not eligible for the exception under § 232.3(f)(2)(iii) and must comply with the provisions set forth in the MLA regulation.

3. Under 32 CFR 232.4(b), are creditors permitted to waive fees or periodic charges at the end of a billing cycle or earlier for open-end credit, in order to prevent a borrower from being assessed a military annual percentage rate (MAPR) in excess of 36 percent during that billing cycle?

Answer: Yes. Section 232.4(b) requires that a creditor may not impose an MAPR greater than 36 percent in connection with an extension of consumer credit that is closed-end credit or in any billing cycle for open-end credit. In an open-end credit account, a covered borrower's use of a line of credit might, under certain circumstances, give rise to the imposition of a combination of fees and/or periodic charges that would cause the MAPR to exceed the limit in § 232.4(b). A creditor can comply with § 232.4(b) by designing a combination of periodic rates and fees that cannot possibly result in an MAPR greater than 36 percent. Nevertheless, nothing in 32 CFR part 232 prohibits a creditor from complying by waiving fees or finance charges, either in whole or in part, in order to reduce the MAPR to 36 percent or below in a given billing cycle. Thus, a creditor could alternatively comply by not imposing charges in excess of 36 percent MAPR that would otherwise be permitted under the credit agreement.

4. Are fees that a creditor is required to pay by law and passes through to a covered borrower required to be included in the calculation of the MAPR?

Answer: 32 CFR 232.4(c)(1) details the charges that must be included in the calculation of the MAPR. Among the charges that must be included are finance charges associated with the consumer credit. Finance charges are defined by § 232.3(n) to mean a “finance charge” in Regulation Z. If such fees are considered “finance charges” under Regulation Z, then such fees must be included in the calculation of the MAPR, unless they are bona fide fees charged to a credit card account that are excludable under § 232.4(d). However, if the fees are not “finance charges” under Regulation Z, then they may be excluded from the calculation of the MAPR, provided they do not qualify for any of the other categories of charges listed under § 232.4(c)(1).

5. For open-end credit, what constitutes a situation where the MAPR cannot be calculated because there is “no balance” in the billing cycle under 32 CFR 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B)?

Answer: Section 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B) specifically provides that for open-end credit, if the MAPR cannot be calculated in a billing cycle because there is “no balance” in the billing cycle, a creditor may not impose any fee or charge during that billing cycle, except for a participation fee that complies with the limitations set forth in § 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B). Because the provision is tied to whether the MAPR can be calculated based on whether there is a balance in the billing cycle, creditors that impose fees or charges that are excluded from the calculation of the MAPR during a particular billing cycle are not subject to the limitations in § 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B) for that billing cycle, as there would be no MAPR to calculate whether or not there was a balance during the billing cycle. For example, if a creditor charged a late fee for a late payment in accordance with its credit agreement with the covered borrower and in compliance with Regulation Z, the creditor may charge the fee, regardless of whether there is a balance in the billing cycle, because a late fee is not among the charges that are included in the calculation of the MAPR.

Furthermore, § 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(A) states that the MAPR shall be calculated following the rules set forth in 12 CFR 1026.14(c) and (d) of Regulation Z. Thus, the reference in § 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B) to a situation in which the MAPR cannot be calculated in a billing cycle, because there is no balance, relates solely to the situation like the one described in 12 CFR 1026.14(c)(2), which is the only provision in 12 CFR 1026.14(c) and (d) that describes the inability to calculate an effective annual percentage rate when there is no balance in the billing cycle. 12 CFR 1026.14(c)(2) discusses how to compute an effective annual percentage rate when the charge imposed during the billing cycle is or includes a minimum, fixed, or other charge not due to the application of a periodic rate, other than a charge with respect to any specific transaction during the billing cycle. Under 12 CFR 1026.14(c)(2), if there is no balance to which the charge is applicable, an effective annual percentage rate cannot be determined under the section. Similarly, § 232.4(c)(2)(ii)(B) relates to when finance charge imposed during the billing cycle is or includes a minimum, fixed or other charge not due to the application of a periodic rate, other than a charge with respect to a specific transaction charge, and there is no balance to which the charge is applicable.

6. Is a minimum interest charge that a creditor may charge a covered borrower as part of a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan and that is generally disclosed in the account-opening table under 12 CFR 1026.6(b)(2)(iii) eligible as a bona fide fee excludable from the calculation of the MAPR?

Answer: Yes. 32 CFR 232.4(d)(1) provides that for consumer credit extended in a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, a bona fide fee, other than a periodic rate, is not a charge required to be included in the MAPR, provided it is a bona fide fee and reasonable for that type of fee. A minimum interest charge that a creditor will charge a covered borrower if the creditor charges interest during a particular billing cycle for a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan is generally required to be disclosed in the account-opening table under 12 CFR 1026.6(b)(2)(iii). Such a charge is not a periodic rate. Furthermore, neither of the categories of fees that are ineligible for the exclusion for bona fide fees (credit insurance premiums and fees for a credit-related ancillary product) applies to this type of charge. Consequently, a minimum interest charge that is generally disclosed in the account-opening table under 12 CFR 1026.6(b)(2)(iii) (even if it does not exceed the threshold for required disclosure in the account-opening table under 12 CFR 1026.6(b)(2)(iii)) may be a bona fide fee excludable from the calculation of the MAPR if it meets the conditions for exclusion.

7. Under 32 CFR 232.4(d)(3)(ii), may creditors rely on commercially compiled sources of information in conducting calculations necessary for the conditional reasonable bona fide credit card fee safe harbor?

Answer: Generally, yes. The July 2015 Final Rule intends to provide a firm, yet flexible, adaptable standard allowing credit card issuers to exclude bona fide and reasonable credit card fees from the calculation of the MAPR. Under the safe harbor set forth in § 232.4(d)(3)(ii), creditors are allowed to exclude a reasonable bona fide fee charged to a credit card account from the calculation of the MAPR, where that fee is less than or equal to an average amount of a fee for the same or a substantially similar product or service charged by 5 or more creditors, each of whose U.S. credit cards in force is at least $3 billion in an outstanding balance (or at least $3 billion in loans on U.S. credit card accounts initially extended by the creditor) at any time during the 3-year period preceding the time such average is computed. As the Department stated in the supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule, the Department believes that information on credit card fees imposed by large credit card issuers is widely available. Moreover, the Department stated in the supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule that the amount of outstanding credit card loans is available in both Securities and Exchange Commission filings as well as Call Reports. Nevertheless, nothing in 32 CFR part 232 prohibits a credit card issuer from relying on information sources compiled in commercially available databases or other industry sources in making safe harbor calculations. However, the safe harbor under § 232.4(d)(3)(ii) is available only if the amount of the fee is actually less than or equal to an average amount of a fee for the same or a substantially similar product or service charge by 5 or more creditors each, of whose U.S. credit cards in force is at least $3 billion in an outstanding balance (or at least $3 billion in loans on U.S. credit card accounts initially extended by the creditor) at any time during the 3-year period preceding the time such average is computed.

8. Under 32 CFR 232.4(d), is it permissible to consider benefits provided by credit card rewards programs in determining whether the amount of a fee is (a) less than or equal to an average amount of a fee for a substantially similar product or service for purposes of comparison under the safe harbor and (b) reasonable overall?

Answer: Generally, yes. Section 232.4(d)(1) provides that for a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, a bona fide fee, other than a periodic rate, is not a charge required to be included in the MAPR, provided it is a bona fide fee and reasonable for that type of fee. Under § 232.4(d)(3)(i), whether a fee is reasonable is determined by comparison to fees typically imposed by other creditors for the same or a substantially similar product or service. Under § 232.4(d)(3)(iii), whether a fee is reasonable depends on other factors relating to the credit card account. Section 232.4(d)(3)(iv) further clarifies that whether a participation fee is reasonable may be determined in reference to whether a credit card offers additional services or other benefits. Moreover, the supplementary information to the July 2015 Final Rule explains that “the `reasonable' condition for a bona fide fee is intended to be applied flexibly so that, in general, creditors may continue to offer a wide range of credit card products that carry reasonable costs expressly tied to specific products or services and which vary depending upon the covered borrower's own choices regarding the use of the card.”?

Under the Department's flexibly applied conditional exclusion, creditors may use any reasonable approach in identifying whether a fee is substantially similar for purposes of comparison and reasonable overall. Thus, the Department's policy, in this regard, permits a creditor to consider whether the benefits provided by a rewards program in determining whether a fee is reasonable overall. Moreover, creditors may consider rewards program benefits in determining whether the amount of a fee is less than or equal to an average amount of a fee for a substantially similar product or service for purposes of the safe harbor in § 232.4(d)(3)(ii).

9. Under 32 CFR 232.5(b), is an assignee permitted to avail itself of a covered borrower identification safe harbor if the assignee has maintained the original creditor's record of a covered borrower check?

Answer: Yes. Under § 232.5(b) a creditor may conclusively determine whether credit is offered or extended to a covered borrower by assessing the status of a credit applicant, in accordance with the methods for checking the status of consumers discussed in § 232.5(b)(2). A creditor's timely covered borrower check is legally conclusive, so long as the creditor creates and thereafter maintains a record of the consumer's covered borrower status. Under § 232.3(i)(2) a creditor, by definition, includes the creditor's assignee. Thus, the Department's policy is to extend the covered borrower check safe harbor to a creditor's assignee, provided that the assignee continues to maintain the record created by the creditor that initially extended the credit.

10. Does the historic lookback provision of 32 CFR 232.5(b)(2)(B) prevent creditors from adopting a risk management plan that includes periodically screening credit portfolios to discover changes to covered borrower status?

Answer: No. Section 232.5 explains the methods available to creditors when determining a consumer's covered borrower status prior to or at the time the parties enter into a transaction or an account is created. The provision permits a creditor to use its own method to assess covered borrower status, and it provides a safe harbor to a creditor that employs either of two available methods: Using information obtained directly or indirectly from the DMDC database; or obtaining a consumer report from a nationwide consumer reporting agency (or a reseller of the same) containing a statement, code, or similar indicator describing that status. To benefit from the safe harbor provision, a creditor must determine a consumer's covered borrower status at or before the time of the transaction or the time an account is established and make a record of the determination. Section 232.5(b)(2)(B) prohibits a creditor from accessing the DMDC database after the time a consumer entered into a transaction or established an account for a specific purpose, namely “to ascertain whether a consumer had been a covered borrower as of the date of that transaction or as of the date that account was established.” Therefore, the plain language of the regulation does not prohibit a creditor or assignee from accessing the DMDC database for other purposes, such as determining whether a previously covered borrower retains that status. However, as stated in § 232.7, other State or Federal laws providing greater protections to covered borrowers may apply to covered transactions under the MLA. Creditors should ensure compliance with any such laws that may apply to them and these transactions.

11. Does the particular internet address referenced in 32 CFR 232.5(b)(2) limit the availability of a safe harbor for a covered borrower check conducted through alternative methods of accessing the MLA database provided by the Department?

Answer: No. Under the safe harbor provided in § 232.5(b)(1), a creditor may conclusively determine whether credit is offered to a covered borrower by assessing the status of a consumer using information related to that consumer obtained from the database, maintained by the DMDC, for that purpose. Section 232.5(b)(2) references a uniform resource locator (URL), more commonly known as an Internet address, as a convenience to assist the public in locating the DMDC MLA database. However, that particular URL address itself does not serve as a restriction on the method through which the DMDC MLA database is accessed. For technological reasons, the Department may from time to time revise the DMDC MLA URL through providing notice on the DMDC MLA Web page. Therefore, a creditor who makes a determination regarding the status of a consumer by accessing the database maintained by the DMDC through a URL provided by the DMDC that is different from the one specifically referenced in § 232.5(b)(2) may still take advantage of the safe harbor in § 232.5(b)(1), so long as the creditor timely creates and thereafter maintains a record of the information so obtained as provided in § 232.5(b)(3).

Furthermore, the Department is currently developing a pilot project in collaboration with several financial service providers that anticipate a large volume of covered borrower checks. In this pilot project, the Department is experimenting with a direct connection that may improve access to the DMDC database for the financial services industry. This direct connection pilot project accesses the same DMDC database available through an internet query. A creditor may verify the status of a consumer by using the database maintained by the Department for that purpose, even though the creditor uses a method of accessing that database provided by the Department other than the particular URL listed in § 232.5(b)(2). Thus, a creditor who makes a determination regarding the status of a consumer under § 232.5(b)(2) by participating in the Department's direct connection pilot project (or a similar form of access should it be provided by the Department at a future date) is deemed conclusive with respect to that transaction or account involving consumer credit between the creditor and that consumer, so long as that creditor timely creates and thereafter maintains a record of the information so obtained as provided in § 232.5(b)(3).

12. How may a creditor orally provide the payment obligation disclosure required under 32 CFR 232.6(a)(3) to meet the requirements of 32 CFR 232.6(d)(2)?

Answer: Section 232.6(a)(3) requires a creditor to provide to a covered borrower, before or at the time the borrower becomes obligated on the transaction or establishes an account for the consumer credit, a clear description of the payment obligation of the covered borrower, as applicable. A payment schedule (in the case of closed-end credit) or an account-opening disclosure (in the case of open-end credit) provided pursuant to the requirement to provide Regulation Z disclosures satisfies this obligation. Therefore, a creditor may orally provide the information in a payment schedule or an account-opening disclosure to a covered borrower. However, an oral recitation of the payment schedule or the account-opening disclosure is not the only way a creditor may comply with § 232.6(a)(3). A creditor may also orally provide a clear description of the payment obligation of the covered borrower by providing a general description of how the payment obligation is calculated or a description of what the borrower's payment obligation would be based on an estimate of the amount the borrower may borrow. For example, a creditor could generally describe how minimum payments are calculated on open-end credit plans issued by the creditor and then refer the covered borrower to the written materials the borrower will receive in connection with opening the plan. Alternatively, a creditor could choose to generally describe borrowers' obligations to make a monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly payment as the case may be under the borrowers' agreements.

Neither the MLA nor the MLA regulation specifies particular content or format for the requirement of a clear, oral description of the payment obligation. Also, nothing in the MLA or the MLA regulation requires that the clear description of the payment obligation provided in writing must be the same as the oral disclosure, provided that both disclosures are clear and accurate. As explained in the supplementary information to the Department's July 2015 Final Rule, the Department's approach has been to interpret the MLA's oral disclosure requirement in a manner that provides creditors “straightforward mechanisms” that afford “latitude to develop the same (or consistent) systems to orally provide the required disclosures—regardless of the particular context …”? The requirement of a clear, oral payment obligation disclosure has sufficient breadth that creditors may choose a variety of acceptable oral disclosure compliance strategies. Thus, under the Department's approach, a generic oral description of the payment obligation may be provided, even though the disclosure is the same for borrowers with a variety of consumer credit transactions or accounts.

13. If a creditor chooses to provide the information that is required to be provided orally by providing a toll-free telephone number, consistent with 32 CFR 232.6(d)(2)(ii)(B), when must the information be available to the borrower?

Answer: Section 232.6(d)(2) requires a statement of the MAPR and a clear description of the covered borrower's payment obligation to be provided to the covered borrower orally. Creditors may satisfy this requirement by providing the information to the covered borrower in person or through a toll-free telephone number. If the creditor decides to provide the borrower with a toll-free telephone number, the toll-free telephone number must be provided on i) a form the creditor directs the consumer to use to apply for the transaction or account, or ii) the written disclosure of the information that is required under § 232.6(d)(1). Since § 232.6(d)(2) permits creditors to provide oral disclosures by providing a toll-free telephone number, such information must be available from the time the creditor provides the toll-free telephone number. The difficulty of providing this information in a timely way through a toll-free telephone system is mitigated by the Department's interpretation of mandatory oral disclosures as allowing for a nonnumeric statement of the MAPR and a generic, clear description of the payment obligation. See § 232.6(c) and Question and Answer #12 of these Interpretations. Oral disclosures provided through a toll-free telephone system need only be available under § 232.6(d)(2)(ii)(B) for a duration of time reasonably necessary to allow a covered borrower to contact the creditor for the purpose of listening to the disclosure.

14. In circumstances where Regulation Z allows a creditor to provide disclosures after the borrower has become obligated on a transaction (as in the case of purchase orders or requests for credit made by mail, telephone, or fax), does the MLA provide for similarly delayed disclosure?

Answer: Yes. 32 CFR 232.6(a) states that a creditor shall provide mandatory loan disclosures, including “any disclosure required by Regulation Z,” to a covered borrower “before or at the time the borrower becomes obligated on the transaction or establishes an account for the consumer credit. . .” Section 232.6(a)(2) further states that “any disclosure required by Regulation Z . . . shall be provided only in accordance with the requirements of Regulation Z that apply to that disclosure...” In certain instances Regulation Z allows a creditor to provide a disclosure after the borrower has become obligated on a transaction, as in the case of purchase orders or requests for credit made by mail, telephone, or fax under 12 CFR 1026.17(g). The MLA regulation's general timing requirement does not override more specific disclosure timing provisions in Regulation Z. The requirement in § 232.6(a) that any disclosure required by Regulation Z be provided only in accordance with the requirements of Regulation Z does not amount to a requirement that MLA-specific disclosures be separately provided to borrowers in advance of TILA disclosures. Thus, the disclosures required in § 232.6(a) may be provided at the time prescribed in Regulation Z.

15. Under 32 CFR 232.8, within a single credit agreement may creditors permissibly use a “savings clause” that excludes covered borrowers from prohibited notice, waiver, arbitration, or other terms that would otherwise be applicable to non-covered borrowers?

Answer: Yes. Section 232.8 makes it unlawful for any creditor to extend consumer credit in which the credit agreement imposes on a covered borrower a proscribed term or provision listed in § 232.8. However, nothing in the MLA regulation restricts the ability of creditors to impose on non-covered borrowers those provisions proscribed under § 232.8 for covered borrowers. Along these lines, the supplementary information in the July 2015 Final Rule explains that the Department “recognizes that many creditors likely would adopt disclosures and contract documents that would be designed to be provided to both consumers who are not entitled to the protections under the MLA and to covered borrowers.”? Under the MLA, a creditor may include a proscribed term under § 232.8, such as a mandatory arbitration clause, within a standard written credit agreement with a covered borrower, provided that the agreement includes a contractual “savings” clause limiting the application of the proscribed term to only non-covered borrowers, consistent with any other applicable law.

16. Does the limitation in § 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit the borrower from repaying a credit transaction by check or electronic fund transfer?

Answer: No. As a general proposition the prohibition of a creditor's use of a check or other method of access in § 232.8(e) does not in any way imply that a creditor cannot be paid. In no case does paragraph (e) prevent covered borrowers from tendering a check or authorizing access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account to repay a creditor. Section 232.8(e) also does not prohibit a covered borrower from authorizing automatically recurring payments, provided that such recurring payments comply with other laws, such as the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and its implementing regulations, including 12 CFR 1005.10, as applicable.

In contrast, § 232.8(e) prohibits a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower. Similarly, a creditor may not use a post-dated check provided at or around the time credit is extended that deprives the borrower of control over payment decisions, as is common in certain payday lending transactions.

Section 232.8(e)(1) and (2) further clarify that covered borrowers may tender checks and authorize electronic fund transfers by specifying permissible actions creditors may take to secure repayment by covered borrowers. The exceptions address cases where a creditor requires a covered borrower to provide repayment in a certain way. Specifically, under § 232.8(e)(1), a creditor may require an electronic fund transfer to repay a consumer credit transaction, unless otherwise prohibited by law. The Department notes that 12 CFR 1005.10(e)(1) prohibits anyone from conditioning an extension of credit to a consumer on the consumer's repayment by preauthorized electronic fund transfers (except for credit extended under an overdraft credit plan or extended to maintain a specified minimum balance in the consumer's account). However, a preauthorized electronic fund transfer is defined under 12 CFR 1005.2(k) as an electronic fund transfer authorized in advance to recur at substantially regular intervals.

In addition, § 232.8(e)(2) clarifies that a creditor is permitted to require direct deposit of the consumer's salary as a condition of eligibility for consumer credit, unless otherwise prohibited by law. While § 232.8(g) prohibits a creditor from requiring as a condition for the extension of consumer credit that the covered borrower establish an allotment to repay an obligation, the regulation does not apply this restriction to a “military welfare society” or a “service relief society” as defined in 37 U.S.C. 1007(h)(4).

17. [Updated 12/14/17] Does the limitation in § 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit the borrower from granting a security interest to a creditor in the covered borrower's checking, savings or other financial account?

Answer: No. The prohibition in § 232.8(e) does not prohibit covered borrowers from granting a security interest to a creditor in the covered borrower's checking, savings, or other financial account, provided that it is not otherwise prohibited by other applicable law and the creditor complies with all other provisions of the MLA regulation, including the limitation on the MAPR to 36 percent. As discussed in Question and Answer #16 of these Interpretations, § 232.8(e) prohibits a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower or using a post-dated check provided at or around the time credit is extended.

Section 232.8(e)(3) further clarifies that covered borrowers may convey security interests in checking, savings, or other financial accounts by describing a permissible security interest granted by covered borrowers. Borrowers may convey security interests for all types of consumer credit covered by the MLA regulation.

Creditors should also note, however, that 32 CFR 232.7(a) provides that the MLA does not preempt any State or Federal law, rule or regulation to the extent that such law, rule or regulation provides greater protection to covered borrowers than the protections provided by the MLA. For example, although the MLA regulation does not prohibit borrowers from conveying security interests in all types of consumer credit covered by the regulation, including credit card accounts, such accounts may also be subject to other laws, rules and regulations governing offsets and security interests. See, e.g., 12 CFR 1026.12(d).

18. [Updated 12/14/17] Does the limitation in § 232.8(e) on a creditor using a check or other method of access to a deposit, savings, or other financial account maintained by the covered borrower prohibit a creditor from exercising a statutory right, or a right arising out of a security interest a borrower grants to a creditor, to take a security interest in funds deposited within a covered borrower's account at any time?

Answer: No. In addition to the security interests granted by borrowers to creditors, as discussed in Question and Answer #17 of these Interpretations, above, under certain circumstances Federal or State statutes may grant creditors statutory liens on funds deposited within covered borrowers' asset accounts. Section 232.8(e) does not prohibit a creditor from exercising rights to take a security interest in funds deposited into a covered borrower's account at any time, including enforcing statutory liens, provided that it is not otherwise prohibited by other applicable law and the creditor complies with all other provisions of the MLA regulation, including the limitation on the MAPR to 36 percent. For example, under 12 U.S.C. 1757(11) Federal credit unions may “enforce a lien upon the shares and dividends of any member, to the extent of any loan made to him and any dues or charges payable by him.”

As discussed in Question and Answer #16 of these Interpretations, § 232.8(e) serves to prohibit a creditor from using the borrower's account information to create a remotely created check or remotely created payment order in order to collect payments on consumer credit from a covered borrower or using a postdated check provided at or around the time credit is extended. Section 232.8(e)(3) describes a permissible activity under § 232.8(e). However, the fact that § 232.8(e)(3) specifies a particular time when a creditor may take a security interest in funds deposited in an account does not change the general effect of the prohibition in § 232.8(e). Therefore, § 232.8(e) does not impede a creditor from—for example—exercising a statutory right to take a security interest in funds deposited in an account at any time, provided that the security interest is not otherwise prohibited by other applicable law and the creditor complies with all other provisions of the MLA regulation, including the limitation on the MAPR to 36 percent.

Creditors may exercise the right to take a security interest in funds deposited into a covered borrower's account in connection with all types of consumer credit covered by the MLA regulation, including credit card accounts, provided the creditor's actions are not prohibited by other State or Federal law, rule or regulation that provides greater protection to covered borrowers than the protections provided in the MLA. For example, although the MLA regulation does not prohibit borrowers from conveying security interests in all types of consumer credit covered by the regulation, including credit card accounts, such accounts may also be subject to other laws, rules and regulations governing offsets and security interests. See, e.g., 12 CFR 1026.12(d).

19. Under 32 CFR 232.3(f)(2)(ii) and 232.8(f) what methods of transportation are included within the definition of a “vehicle”?

Answer: For purposes of the MLA, the term “vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle primarily used for personal, family, or household purposes for on-road transportation. The term does not include motor homes, recreational vehicles (RVs), golf carts, or motor scooters.

20. [Added 12/14/17] To qualify for the optional safe harbor under 32 CFR 232.5(b)(3), must the creditor determine the consumer's covered borrower status simultaneously with the consumer's submission of an application for consumer credit or exactly 30 days prior?

Answer: No. Section 232.5(b)(3)(i) and (ii) permit the creditor to qualify for the safe harbor when it makes a timely determination regarding the status of a consumer at the time the consumer either initiates the transaction or submits an application to establish an account, or anytime during a 30-day period of time prior to such action. Therefore, a creditor qualifies for the safe harbor under § 232.5(b) when the qualified covered borrower check that the creditor relies on is conducted at the time a consumer initiates a credit transaction or applies to establish an account, or up to 30 days prior to the action taken by the consumer. Similarly, the timing provisions in § 232.5(b)(3)(i) and (ii) permit a creditor to qualify for the safe harbor when it conducts a qualified covered borrower check simultaneously with the initiation of the transaction or submission of an application by the consumer or during the course of the creditor's processing of that application for consumer credit.

21. [Added 2/28/2020] Does a creditor qualify for the safe harbor set forth in 32 CFR 232.5(b)(2)(i)(A) if the creditor uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to search the Department's database to conclusively determine whether credit is offered or extended to a covered borrower, and thus may be subject to 10 U.S.C. 987 and the requirements of 32 CFR 232.5(b)?

Answer: Yes. The Department recognizes that while all members of the Armed Forces will have a Social Security Number (SSN), a limited population of dependents, who meet the definition of a covered borrower in 32 CFR 232.3(g), may not qualify for a SSN due to their citizenship status. An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Federal government in lieu of a SSN. ITINs are only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot obtain a SSN and can be used in searches of the Department's database. Since all covered borrowers will have a SSN or ITIN, the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) MLA database contains ITINs for covered borrowers who are not eligible to obtain an SSN. Therefore, for purposes of 32 CFR 232.5(b)(2)(i)(A), an ITIN is a “Social Security number.”

Regulation Subsection Info: 

This interpretive rule was published August 26, 2016, at 81 FR 58840, and amended December 14, 2017, by an interpretive rule published at 82 FR 58739, and by an interpretive rule published February 28, 2020, at 85 FR 11842. It provides guidance on certain questions the Department has received regarding compliance with the July 2015 Final Rule.


Recent documents affecting this regulation.

Federal Register documents affecting this regulation:
FR CitationDateStatusComments
85 FR 11842 2/28/20 Interpretive Rule, eff. 2/28/20 This interpretive rule reverts Q&A #2 back to the wording of the 8/26/16 interpretive rule and adds one Q&A.
82 FR 58739 12/14/17 Interpretive Rule, eff. 12/14/17 This interpretive rule updates three of the Q&As in the 8/26/16 interpretive rule and adds one Q&A.
81 FR 58840 8/26/16 Interpretive Rule, eff. 8/26/16 This interpretive rule provides guidance on certain questions the Department has received regarding compliance with the July 2015 Final Rule.
80 FR 43559 7/22/15 Final rule extending the protections of the MLA to a broader range of closed-end and open-end credit products. Among other amendments, the Department modifies the provisions relating to the optional mechanism a creditor could use when assessing whether a consumer is a “covered borrower,” modifies the disclosures that a creditor must provide to a covered borrower, and implements the enforcement provisions of the MLA. Effective 10/1/15. Compliance required by 10/3/2016; by 10/3/2017 for certain credit card accounts.
78 FR 361346/17/13Advance notice of proposed rulemakingRequests comment by 8/1/13 on the need to revise the Department's existing regulation that, in general, imposes certain limits on and requires certain disclosures relating to the provision of consumer credit to a covered borrower
72 FR 505808/31/07Final Rule; eff. 10/1/07Implements § 670 of Pub. L. 109-364 (John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007)