The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has ordered Bank of America, N.A. and FIA Card Services, N.A. to provide an estimated $727 million in relief to consumers harmed by practices related to credit card add-on products.
Roughly 1.4 million consumers were affected by Bank of America's deceptive marketing of their add-on products. Bank of America also illegally charged approximately 1.9 million consumer accounts for credit monitoring and credit reporting services that they were not receiving.
From 2010 through 2012, Bank of America actively marketed two credit card payment protection products, "Credit Protection Plus" and "Credit Protection Deluxe." Both products allowed customers to request that Bank of America cancel some amount of credit card debt in the event of certain hardships like involuntary unemployment or disability and certain life events such as entering college or retirement. The Bureau found that the telemarketing scripts Bank of America used for these products contained misstatements. Additionally, telemarketers often went off script to make sales pitches that were misleading and that omitted pertinent information. Over 1.4 million card members were affected by this deceptive marketing.
Bank of America also enrolled consumers in identity protection credit card add-on products, known as "Privacy Guard," "Privacy Source,"and "Privacy Assist," that promised to monitor customer credit and alert consumers to potentially fraudulent activity. Under federal law, in order for Bank of America or its vendors to obtain consumers' credit information, the consumers generally must authorize access to credit information. Bank of America, however, billed consumers for these products without or before having the authorization necessary to perform the credit monitoring and credit report retrieval services.
"We have consistently warned companies about illegal practices related to credit card add-on products," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed. We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market."
Bank of America will pay a $20 million civil money penalty to the CFPB.