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Comment for 1026.48 - Limitations on Private Education Loans

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1. Co-branding - definition of marketing. The prohibition on co-branding in §§ 1026.48(a) and (b) applies to the marketing of private education loans. The term marketing includes any advertisement under § 1026.2(a)(2). In addition, the term marketing includes any document provided by the creditor to the consumer related to a specific transaction, such as an application or solicitation, a promissory note or a contract provided to the consumer. For example, prominently displaying the name of the educational institution at the top of the application form or promissory note without mentioning the name of the creditor, such as by naming the loan product the “University of ABC Loan,” would be prohibited.2. Implied endorsement. A suggestion that a private education loan is offered or made by the covered educational institution instead of by the creditor is included in the prohibition on implying that the covered educational institution endorses the private education loan under § 1026.48(a)(1). For example, naming the loan the “University of ABC Loan,” suggests that the loan is offered by the educational institution. However, the use of a creditor's full name, even if that name includes the name of a covered educational institution, does not imply endorsement. For example, a credit union whose name includes the name of a covered educational institution is not prohibited from using its own name. In addition, the authorized use of a state seal by a state or an institution of higher education in the marketing of state education loan products does not imply endorsement.

3. Disclosure. i. A creditor is considered to have complied with § 1026.48(a)(2) if the creditor's marketing contains a clear and conspicuous statement, equally prominent and closely proximate to the reference to the covered educational institution, using the name of the creditor and the name of the covered educational institution that the covered educational institution does not endorse the creditor's loans and that the creditor is not affiliated with the covered educational institution. For example, “[Name of creditor]'s loans are not endorsed by [name of school] and [name of creditor] is not affiliated with [name of school].” The statement is considered to be equally prominent and closely proximate if it is the same type size and is located immediately next to or directly above or below the reference to the educational institution, without any intervening text or graphical displays.

ii. A creditor is considered to have complied with § 1026.48(b) if the creditor's marketing contains a clear and conspicuous statement, equally prominent and closely proximate to the reference to the covered educational institution, using the name of the creditor's loan or loan program, the name of the covered educational institution, and the name of the creditor, that the creditor's loans are not offered or made by the covered educational institution, but are made by the creditor. For example, “[Name of loan or loan program] is not being offered or made by [name of school], but by [name of creditor].” The statement is considered to be equally prominent and closely proximate if it is the same type size and is located immediately next to or directly above or below the reference to the educational institution, without any intervening text or graphical displays.

48(c) Consumer's Right to Accept

1. 30 day acceptance period. The creditor must provide the consumer with at least 30 calendar days from the date the consumer receives the disclosures required under § 1026.47(b) to accept the terms of the loan. The creditor may provide the consumer with a longer period of time. If the creditor places the disclosures in the mail, the consumer is considered to have received them three business days after they are mailed under § 1026.46(d)(4). For purposes of determining when a consumer receives mailed disclosures, “business day” means all calendar days except Sundays and the legal public holidays referred to in § 1026.2(a)(6). See comment 46(d)-1. The consumer may accept the loan at any time before the end of the 30-day period.

2. Method of acceptance. The creditor must specify a method or methods by which the consumer can accept the loan at any time within the 30-day acceptance period. The creditor may require the consumer to communicate acceptance orally or in writing. Acceptance may also be communicated electronically, but electronic communication must not be the only means provided for the consumer to communicate acceptance unless the creditor has provided the approval disclosure electronically in compliance with the consumer consent and other applicable provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) (15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq.). If acceptance by mail is allowed, the consumer's communication of acceptance is considered timely if placed in the mail within the 30-day period.

3. Prohibition on changes to rates and terms. The prohibition on changes to the rates and terms of the loan applies to changes that affect those terms that are required to be disclosed under §§ 1026.47(b) and (c). The creditor is permitted to make changes that do not affect any of the terms disclosed to the consumer under those sections.

4. Permissible changes to rates and terms - re-disclosure not required. Creditors are not required to consummate a loan where the extension of credit would be prohibited by law or where the creditor has reason to believe that the consumer has committed fraud. A creditor may make changes to the rate based on adjustments to the index used for the loan and changes that will unequivocally benefit the consumer. For example, a creditor is permitted to reduce the interest rate or lower the amount of a fee. A creditor may also reduce the loan amount based on a certification or other information received from a covered educational institution or from the consumer indicating that the student's cost of attendance has decreased or the amount of other financial aid has increased. A creditor may also withdraw the loan approval based on a certification or other information received from a covered educational institution or from the consumer indicating that the student is not enrolled in the institution. For these changes permitted by § 1026.48(c)(3), the creditor is not required to provide a new set of approval disclosures required under § 1026.47(b) or provide the consumer with a new 30-day acceptance period under § 1026.48(c)(1). The creditor must provide the final disclosures under § 1026.47(c).

5. Permissible changes to rates and terms - school certification. If the creditor reduces the loan amount based on information that the student's cost of attendance has decreased or the amount of other financial aid has increased, the creditor may make certain corresponding changes to the rate and terms. The creditor may change the rate or terms to those that the consumer would have received if the consumer had applied for the reduced loan amount. For example, assume a consumer applies for, and is approved for, a $10,000 loan at a 7% interest rate. However, after the consumer receives the approval disclosures, the consumer's school certifies that the consumer's financial need is only $8,000. The creditor may reduce the loan amount for which the consumer is approved to $8,000. The creditor may also, for example, increase the interest rate on the loan to 7.125%, but only if the consumer would have received a rate of 7.125% if the consumer had originally applied for an $8,000 loan.

6. Permissible changes to rates and terms - re-disclosure required. A creditor may make changes to the interest rate or terms to accommodate a request from a consumer. For example, assume a consumer applies for a $10,000 loan and is approved for the $10,000 amount at an interest rate of 6%. After the creditor has provided the approval disclosures, the consumer's financial need increases, and the consumer requests to a loan amount of $15,000. In this situation, the creditor is permitted to offer a $15,000 loan, and to make any other changes such as raising the interest rate to 7%, in response to the consumer's request. The creditor must provide a new set of disclosures under § 1026.47(b) and provide the consumer with 30 days to accept the offer under § 1026.48(c) for the $15,000 loan offered in response to the consumer's request. However, because the consumer may choose not to accept the offer for the $15,000 loan at the higher interest rate, the creditor may not withdraw or change the rate or terms of the offer for the $10,000 loan, except as permitted under § 1026.48(c)(3), unless the consumer accepts the $15,000 loan.

48(d) Consumer's Right to Cancel

1. Right to cancel. If the creditor mails the disclosures, the disclosures are considered received by the consumer three business days after the disclosures were mailed. For purposes of determining when the consumer receives the disclosures, the term “business day” is defined as all calendar days except Sunday and the legal public holidays referred to in § 1026.2(a)(6). See § 1026.46(d)(4). The consumer has three business days from the date on which the disclosures are deemed received to cancel the loan. For example, if the creditor places the disclosures in the mail on Thursday, June 4, the disclosures are considered received on Monday, June 8. The consumer may cancel any time before midnight Thursday, June 11. The creditor may provide the consumer with more time to cancel the loan than the minimum three business days required under this section. If the creditor provides the consumer with a longer period of time in which to cancel the loan, the creditor may disburse the funds three business days after the consumer has received the disclosures required under this section, but the creditor must honor the consumer's later timely cancellation request.

2. Method of cancellation. The creditor must specify a method or methods by which the consumer may cancel. For example, the creditor may require the consumer to communicate cancellation orally or in writing. Cancellation may also be communicated electronically, but electronic communication must not be the only means by which the consumer may cancel unless the creditor provided the final disclosure electronically in compliance with the consumer consent and other applicable provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) (15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq.). If the creditor allows cancellation by mail, the creditor must specify an address or the name and address of an agent of the creditor to receive notice of cancellation. The creditor must wait to disburse funds until it is reasonably satisfied that the consumer has not canceled. For example, the creditor may satisfy itself by waiting a reasonable time after expiration of the cancellation period to allow for delivery of a mailed notice. The creditor may also satisfy itself by obtaining a written statement from the consumer, which must be provided to and signed by the consumer only at the end of the three-day period, that the right has not been exercised.

3. Cancellation without penalty. The creditor may not charge the consumer a fee for exercising the right to cancel under § 1026.48(d). The prohibition extends only to fees charged specifically for canceling the loan. The creditor is not required to refund fees, such as an application fee, that are charged to all consumers whether or not the consumer cancels the loan.

48(e) Self-Certification Form

1. General. Section 1026.48(e) requires that the creditor obtain the self-certification form, signed by the consumer, before consummating the private education loan. The rule applies only to private education loans that will be used for the postsecondary educational expenses of a student while that student is attending an institution of higher education as defined in § 1026.46(b)(2). It does not apply to all covered educational institutions. The requirement applies even if the student is not currently attending an institution of higher education, but will use the loan proceeds for postsecondary educational expenses while attending such institution. For example, a creditor is required to obtain the form before consummating a private education loan provided to a high school senior for expenses to be incurred during the consumer's first year of college. This provision does not require that the creditor obtain the self-certification form in instances where the loan is not intended for a student attending an institution of higher education, such as when the consumer is consolidating loans after graduation. Section 155(a)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 provides that the form shall be made available to the consumer by the relevant institution of higher education. However, § 1026.48(e) provides flexibility to institutions of higher education and creditors as to how the completed self-certification form is provided to the lender. The creditor may receive the form directly from the consumer, or the creditor may receive the form from the consumer through the institution of higher education. In addition, the creditor may provide the form, and the information the consumer will require to complete the form, directly to the consumer.

2. Electronic signature. Under section 155(a)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the institution of higher education may provide the self-certification form to the consumer in written or electronic form. Under section 155(a)(5) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the form may be signed electronically by the consumer. A creditor may accept the self-certification form from the consumer in electronic form. A consumer's electronic signature is considered valid if it meets the requirements issued by the Department of Education under section 155(a)(5) of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

48(f) Provision of Information by Preferred Lenders

1. General. Section 1026.48(f) does not specify the format in which creditors must provide the required information to the covered educational institution. Creditors may choose to provide only the required information or may provide copies of the form or forms the lender uses to comply with § 1026.47(a). A creditor is only required to provide the required information if the creditor is aware that it is a party to a preferred lender arrangement. For example, if a creditor is placed on a covered educational institution's preferred lender list without the creditor's knowledge, the creditor is not required to comply with § 1026.48(f).