The federal agency continues to aggressively battle companies that confuse and shortchange consumers.

If you’ve ever had a gripe about your bank or credit card, it’s nice to know somebody hears you. And does something about it.

That’s the job of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency with legal authority to take on big banks, mortgage companies, debt collectors, auto lenders — basically the entire financial industry, whenever they do something sketchy.

Every so often, they release a big report on what they’ve been up to. The new one out now shows that in the first half of the year, the CFPB recovered $14 million for more than 104,000 consumers who were illegally ripped off. The misdeeds ranged from auto lenders wrongfully repossessing cars to credit card companies pushing an “expedited” pay-by-phone option that had a fee, when there were also multiple free ways to pay including a free pay-by-phone option.

Almost all of the CFPB’s investigations come straight from consumer complaints, which you can file online for free. The CFPB says 97 percent of complains earn a response from the offending company within two weeks.

Here’s a quick look at what the CFPB cracked down on in 2017…

Banks misleading consumers about fee waivers and overdraft coverage

Checking accounts are rarely free these days, but if you meet certain requirements those fees are usually waived. The CFPB says some banks are using tricky language that trips up consumers, though…

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Examiners found that one or more institutions engaged in deceptive acts or practices by representing in deposit account fee schedules that monthly account service fees would be waived under circumstances in which those fees, in fact, would be assessed.

One such qualification – as described in the fee schedules – was if the consumer made ten or more payments from the checking account during a statement cycle. In fact, only debit card purchases and debit card payments qualified toward the fee waiver threshold, and other payments from a consumer’s checking account, such as ACH payments, did not qualify. Moreover, only payments that “posted” during the statement cycle qualified toward the waiver and payments that were initiated but not posted during the
statement cycle did not qualify.

The CFPB says you might reasonably figure any transaction through your account would count toward those 10, and that you don’t worry about how quickly the bank handles its housekeeping issues. So it’s not fair if their bad wording or delays end up causing you fees, and they need to clarify the language so consumers don’t get dinged.

Relatedly, the CFPB says at least one bank lied about how overdraft protection works, saying that if you opt-in to the service you can withdraw more cash from an ATM than the daily limit allows. That’s not how it works — instead, the bank will cover the difference of a transaction if your balance becomes negative, then charge you for it plus an overdraft fee. The CFPB ordered them to “cease misrepresenting features of their overdraft protection.”

Debt collector harassment

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs how and when debt collectors can bug you — and only you — about your unpaid debts. The CFPB says the law gets violated routinely…

  • The CFPB says some collectors don’t even worry about whether they’re contacting the right person before demanding money. The CFPB ordered them to step up their verification process with full name and date of birth or a partial Social Security number before disclosing the debt.
  • Some debt collectors wrongly said authorized users (often significant others or relatives) on accounts are responsible for debts — when only the actual cardholder is. They’ve been corrected.
  • Debt collectors aren’t legally allowed to contact you at times they know are inconvenient, including late at night or when you’ve told them are inconvenient, such as when you’re at work. But they often keep poor notes and contact people at bad times anyway — so the CFPB ordered some complained-about collectors to fix their records and follow the law.

There’s a lot more in the full report, although it’s dry reading. In the past six years, the agency has secured nearly $12 billion in relief for more than 29 million Americans.

Meet the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger

Associate editor

Ballenger is a Debt.com editor and its first political columnist.

Credit & Debt, News

auto loans, CFPB, credit cards, fees

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Article last modified on September 22, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: CFPB Recovers $14 Million for Ripped-Off Consumers - AMP.