Citigroup will refund $700 million to its customers and will pay $70 million in additional fines for illegal and deceptive credit card practices.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered the one of the largest credit card issuers to pay the amounts for their role in selling “add-on” products to customers, such as credit score monitoring or “rush” processing of payments. Other banks have been fined in the past as well.
If you fell for such tactics, then you’re one of the 8.8 million affected consumers who will receive a refund. But hopefully you know better than paying unnecessary fees for services that you can receive for free.
“This is the tenth action we’ve taken against companies in this space for deceiving consumers” Said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
In one allegation, Citi telemarketers were said to have sold consumers identity theft protection services with a 30-day “free” trial, when no such free trial existed; or signed up consumers for an add-on service when it was ambiguous whether the consumer actually said they wanted it. In another situation, Citi sold credit monitoring services when Citi wasn’t performing such services at all, or were not actively monitoring a consumer’s credit file with credit reporting bureaus.
Citi also allegedly misrepresented its customers by charging a $14.95 “expedited” payment fee to customers who made over-the-phone payments and did not tell consumers about no-fee options.
While credit card companies have largely ended the practice, Bourke and other consumer financial advocates say they are still sold by some high-cost installment loan providers or payday lenders.
You should always look for no-fee accounts, no-fee credit cards and free credit reports. You should only pay fees when you’re receiving something valuable in return. Especially recurring charges will add up quickly to hundreds of dollars a year. Even in cases when you end up paying a late fee or service charge, you should always contact your bank and ask for a refund.
Citi has already set aside the money to pay for the settlement, a spokeswoman said. For the customer who no longer has an account at Citi, a check will be mailed. If you did pay any fees to Citi, look out for a refund.