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Monitoring the Monitor

Monitoring the Monitor

Although you can’t always get what you want, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says you should at least get what you pay for when it comes to credit card “add-on” benefits.  The CFPB has settled with two companies that charged credit card customers for credit monitoring or identity theft protection without providing the services.  According to a CFPB investigation, the vendors’ behavior amounted to unfair billing or administration practices in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Intersections Inc. and Affinion Group Holdings, Inc. had both entered into agreements with banks offering the add-ons to the banks’ credit card customers.  Over a two-year period at least 73,000 accounts were billed by Affinion for the services at between $7 and $16 per month but the services were not provided and the customers were not given refunds.  Furthermore, according to the CFPB, customers who complained or tried to cancel the add-on services received inaccurate or incomplete information about the value and benefit of add-on products from the company’s retention specialists.  Some of the specialists told the callers that the company could get their credit scores raised by having derogatory items removed from their credit reports even though the company had no way to do so.

Intersections allegedly billed 300,000 customers between $8 and $13 per month for add-ons over a four-year period without providing the services; some customers made such payments for several years.

The settlement with Affinion requires the company to refund nearly $7 million to eligible customers and pay a fine of almost $2 million to the CFPB Civil Penalty Fund.  Because of earlier enforcement actions, Intersections has made all but $55,000 in required refunds to its customers.  Intersections must also pay a $1.2 million fine.

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