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Barbara Reid Alexander    (207)289-3731

SUPERINTENDENT   

Offices located at:

Harry W. Giddinge    Central Building

DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT      Hallowell Annex

    Hallowell, Maine

Maine State Seal

 

DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS REGULATION

BUREAU OF CONSUMER PROTECTION

STATE HOUSE STATION 35

AUGUSTA, MAINE 04333

 

ADVISORY RULING #49

OCTOBER 2, 1980

 

October 2, 1980

 

Dear

 

  In your response of September 22, 1980 to the Bureau's Report of Examination of the      on 06/13/80, you raised a number of objections to the Bureau's citations.

 

I.  The Bureau cited a loan in Item 1 in which the consumer's first payment was delayed more than 45 days after consummation in violation of Section 3-308(1) of the Code.  Section 3-308(1) provides:

 

"No creditor shall at any time contract for or receive payments pursuant to a schedule of payments under which any one payment is not substantially equal to all other payments, excluding any down payment receivable by the creditor or under which the intervals between any consecutive payments differ substantially."

 

You maintain that the prohibition concerning intervals between consecutive payments does not refer to the interval between the time of consummation and the due date of the first payment.

 

The term "interval" is not defined in Section 3-308, but the Bureau has always looked to the definition of "interval" in Section 2-503, for guidance in this matter.

 

Section 2-503(4) defines "interval" specifically with reference to the time period between the date of a transaction and the due date of the first scheduled installment:

 

"Interval.  The 'interval' between specified dates means the interval between them including one or the other but not both of them; if the interval between the date of a transaction and the due date of the first scheduled installment does not exceed one month by more than 15 days when the computational period is one month, or does not exceed 11 days when the computational period is one week, the interval may be considered by the creditor as one computational period."

 

Therefore, the Bureau feels confident in its position that any closed end credit transaction with an interval of more than 45 days runs afoul of Section 3-308(1).  The policy behind this legislative judgment is to prevent in both consumer loans and credit sales, taking unfair advantage of the consumer in promoting a pay-back schedule that may be unacceptable to the consumer at the time of the transaction but feasible in the future, thus allowing the


ADVISORY RULING #49

OCTOBER 2, 1980

 

PAGE 2

 

creditor an unfair pressure tactic to promote his product.  As you know, Section 3-308(2) provides an exception to the rule when the consumer's income is intermittent or seasonal.

 

I am aware that in any particular case the Section 3-308 rule may not necessarily protect the consumer when the first interval is close to 45 days and all subsequent payments are monthly.  However, the Bureau is hard pressed to determine a statutory difference between a loan scheduled for a 50-day first payment interval and a credit sale scheduled for a 5-month first payment interval.

 

II.  You have also raised an issue with regard to the Report's citation, in Item 2(C), that all forms fail to properly disclose the bank's right of set-off as a security interest under Regulation Z, Section 226.8(b)(5).  I have also received a communication from Attorney Robert Eaton requesting a reconsideration of this citation.  I hope that the following discussion will respond to both communications.

 

It is true that Regulation Z has never been interpreted to require the disclosure of the bank's right of set-off as a security interest.  See Fletcher v. Rhode Island Hospital Trust National Bank, 496 F. 2d 927 (1st Cir. 1974).  However, the Bureau has taken the position in the past that Regulation Z so requires.  See Bureau Advisory Ruling #23, October 20, 1975.  Subsequent to that AR, the Federal Reserve Board issued Unofficial Staff Interpretation No. 1084 which stated the Fletcher rule (July 15, 1976).

 

In addition, the Code was amended by P.L. 1977, c. 159, §2 and P.L. 1979, c. 402 to make explicit that a notice of right to cure default in Section 5-110 must reference the bank's right of set-off and describe the intent to exercise that right as Section 5-110(4) requires.  The term "goods" in Section 1-301(20) was amended in P.L. 1977, c. 159, §1, to include: "For the purposes of Sections 5-110 and 5-111, goods that are collateral shall include any right of set-off that the creditor may have." 

(Emphasis added).

 

In light of the FRB Interpretation and the narrow focus of the amendments to Sections 5-110 and 5-111, I conclude that a creditor could withhold disclosure of the fact and meaning of a right to set-off until the creditor sought to invoke that right at the time of default.  After default, the notice of right to cure would have to conform to Section 5-110(4).  I frankly view this as an anomaly and would prefer a different result.

 

You may be interested to know that the FRB's proposed revision of Regulation Z to conform to the Truth in Lending Simplification and Reform Act does require the disclosure of the right of set-off as a security interest.  (See proposed Section 226.2(bb), definition of "security interest.") Therefore, you may decide to conform your forms to this probable future requirement of state and federal law.

 

In addition, it should be noted that the Consumer Loan Agreement Law (10 MRSA c. 202) may require a different result.  The effective date of this requirement is July 1, 1981.  I question whether the phrase "the right of set-off by law provided" contained in your forms is one with "words with common and everyday meanings."  10 MRSA §1124(1).


ADVISORY RULING #49

OCTOBER 2, 1980

 

PAGE 3

 

  I hope this responds to your requests for rulings from the Bureau.

 

  Sincerely,

 

  /s/ Barbara R. Alexander

 

  Barbara R. Alexander

  Superintendent

 

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