Why Apple Pay Is Invisible to the CFPB (for Now)

  • Philip Ryan
  • March 28, 2016
  • 1

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / pressmasterThe FBI may be after Apple, but so far, the CFPB isn’t, at least as far as Apple Pay is concerned.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accepts complaints (and comments) about mobile wallets, which it categorizes as a subset of prepaid cards. You won’t find any mentions of Apple Pay there, though, since the CFPB only tracks mobile wallets in which consumers can hold funds. That includes PayPal, and until recently, Google Wallet.

Google Wallet split into two services with the launch of Android Pay in Sept. 2015. There is now an app called “Android Pay” for card-based purchases with merchants, and “Google Wallet,” which is for peer-to-peer money transfers. Apple Pay, by contrast, is not an app, and its P2P functionality is still a future proposition.

Google had 14 mobile wallet-related complaints in the CFPB database from Dec. 2014 to Dec. 2015. (Since none were later than this latter date, it appears Android Pay is be safe from CFPB scrutiny for the moment, as well.) Just one, related to unauthorized transactions, was settled with monetary relief.

PayPal, meanwhile, had 135 CFPB complaints dating back to the fall of 2014, with 20 settled with monetary relief. PayPal, which paid a fine of $25 million for other regulatory trouble related to offers of credit in May 2015, pushed back against the CFPB around the same time, saying its account holders typically hold $60 or less in their accounts, and for short amounts of time.

Apple and iTunes are not exempt from customer concerns related to payments. A post in Apple’s discussion forums — it is from 2012, but a search turns up many similar inquiries — complains that Apple allowed a purchase on a debit card that held insufficient funds, leading to a slew of fines and fees. Apple updated its guidance on this issue on March 26. And what would happen to the negative iTunes balance, the customer asked? The answer, or part of it:

Apple does not have a collection agency that will come after you to try and collect the amount owed. It will just sit there with a negative balance, but you will not be able to download app updates or use the account for anything other than viewing the store. After a period of about two years, the account will be closed and any past purchases will no longer be able to be used as any new computers won’t be able to be authorized to play them because the account is closed. iTunes is a low profit business for Apple so they do not spend money on collection agencies or attorneys.

Of course not. Once they do, the CFPB will come knocking. And as Apple Pay use cases expand into apps and the mobile web, they might anyway.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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