Sadly, Congress refused to allow the person that should have headed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to do so: Elizabeth Warren. If we are lucky she will be joining congress as the new senator from Massachusetts to reduce the amount of big donnor favoritism that prevails there now. That attitude will still prevail, she will just be one voice standing against the many bought and paid for politicians we keep sending back to Washington (there are a couple now, but they are vastly outnumbered).
Even with congressional attempts to stop the CFPB from being able to enforce laws against their big donnors, the CFPB has announced their first public enforcement action: an order requiring Capital One Bank to refund approximately $140 million to two million customers and pay an additional $25 million penalty. This is a good, small step that is helping creating a rule of law instead of a rule of those capturing regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians. But it is a very small step. The system is still mainly about captured regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians.
This action results from a CFPB examination that identified deceptive marketing tactics used by Capital One’s vendors to pressure or mislead consumers into paying for add-on products such as payment protection and credit monitoring when they activated their credit cards.
“Today’s action puts $140 million back in the pockets of two million Capital One customers who were pressured or misled into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want, or in some cases, couldn’t even use,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are putting companies on notice that these deceptive practices are against the law and will not be tolerated.”
Consumers with low credit scores or low credit limits were offered these products by Capital One’s call-center vendors when they called to have their new credit cards activated. As part of the high-pressure tactics Capital One representatives used to sell these add-on products, consumers were:
- Misled about the benefits of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that the product would improve their credit scores and help them increase the credit limit on their Capital One credit card.
- Deceived about the nature of the products: Consumers were not always told that buying the products was optional. In other cases, consumers were wrongly told they were required to purchase the product in order to receive full information about it, but that they could cancel the product if they were not satisfied. Many of these consumers later had difficulty canceling when they called to do so.
- Misinformed about cost of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that they would be enrolling in a free product rather than making a purchase.
- Enrolled without their consent: Some call center vendors processed the add-on product purchases without the consumer’s consent. Consumers were then automatically billed for the product and often had trouble cancelling the product when they called to do so.
One of the less obvious costs of a poor credit rating these days is large companies see you as someone to take advantage of. They often target those with poor credit for extremely lousy deals that they wouldn’t try to sell to those with good credit. The presumption, I would imagine, is someone able to maintain a good credit rating is much less likely fall for our lousy deals.
Related: Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud (facilitated by financial institutions) – Anti-Market Policies from Our Talking Head and Political Class – Banks Hope they Paid Politicians Enough to Protect Billions in Excessive Fees
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to issue Consent Orders and take action against institutions engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. To ensure that all affected consumers are repaid and that consumers are no longer subject to these misleading and high-pressure tactics, Capital One has agreed to:
- End deceptive marketing: Capital One has ceased all marketing of these products, and will not resume doing so until Capital One submits a compliance plan, acceptable to the Bureau, which helps ensure these unlawful acts do not occur in the future.
- Complete repayment, plus interest, to two million consumers: Capital One will pay approximately $140 million to all of the estimated two million consumers who feel victim to this scheme.
- $25 million penalty: Capital One will make a $25 million penalty payment to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
Today’s action is being taken in coordination with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is separately ordering restitution of approximately $10 million from Capital One. The OCC’s order has restitution for additional consumers harmed by unfair billing practices taking place between May 2002 and June 2011 in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act. For the combined activity, the OCC is assessing a $35 million civil money penalty against Capital One.
Sadly we have been (and continue to be) forced to suffer through an massive imbalance in power. Large financial companies, through large cash payments to politicians and capturing regulators, have been able to create a system where widespread illegal actions go unchecked. The CFPB has been able to make some progress, even while those in congress try to prevent such enforcement against those giving them cash. You might think the politicians would care more about protecting those who will vote from organizations trying to rip them off, but the evidence shows you would be wrong. If we start voting for people that have that attitude it will be a very good day for the USA.