I’d like to express my gratitude to the Comptroller of the Currency, Tom Curry, for his leadership on this issue. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created, in part, to make sure that we never have to relive the recent financial crisis. At the core of our mission is a duty to identify and root out unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices in financial markets that harm consumers. We have various tools to achieve that goal, including supervisory oversight and enforcement actions.
This action is the result of work that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency began, and which we at the Consumer Bureau later joined. The agencies found that Chase Bank USA and JPMorgan Chase Bank engaged in unfair billing practices for certain credit monitoring products, which were often offered as ‘add-ons’ to credit card accounts. Put simply, Chase was charging consumers for services that they did not receive.
Chase offered its credit card customers the option to purchase products that would monitor the customers’ credit and alert them to potentially fraudulent activities. According to federal law, consumers generally must authorize access to credit information in writing in order for a company to provide these types of services. Chase, however, often charged consumers for these credit products before it had the written authorization necessary to perform the monitoring services. In many instances, Chase never received the necessary authorization from customers. Customers were charged as soon as they enrolled in these products—regardless of whether they were receiving all the services they had paid for.
When the fees for the products exceeded credit card account limits, some consumers faced even more fees and paid additional interest on those amounts. Chase engaged in these practices between October 2005, when it first offered the products, and June 2012, when it stopped billing consumers who were not receiving the promised benefits.
This enforcement action guarantees an end to these unfair billing practices and requires that Chase completely repay those consumers who were wrongly charged. Chase has already paid $309 million in refunds to more than 2.1 million customers. Consumers who are still Chase customers were due to receive credits to their accounts. Those who are no longer with Chase were due to receive checks in the mail. Today, we are also releasing a consumer advisory to provide information to Chase consumers about the refunds.
Chase is also paying $20 million in civil penalties, an amount that was reduced in light of their cooperation and extensive efforts at remediation. And Chase has committed to improving its oversight of third-party vendors that manage these credit monitoring products. Chase also submitted to an independent audit to ensure compliance with the terms of our Consent Order requiring refunds to consumers.
This is the third action that we have taken with our fellow regulators to address problems in the credit card add-on product market. We are continuing that work, and we continue to be vigilant in pursuit of those who deceive consumers or treat them unfairly. Consumers deserve better, and we intend to help them achieve that.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.