08192017Headline:

Charlottesville, Virginia

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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Discover to Repay Cardholders $200 Million Due to Deceptive Marketing

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As banks diversified the services they offered in the past few years,they began to search for additional ways to make money. Some banks ventured into the securities and even into the telecommunications businesses. Others, like Capitol One and Discover, began to solicit their credit cardholders for service programs, such as credit card and payment protection services, identity theft and credit score programs, which could cost anywhere from $3 to $10 each month. And often, they didn’t take "no" for an answer (you got the "service" whether you wanted it or not), resulting in mounting monthly charges to the cardholder.

The extra charges and fees may have been less noticeable when the economy was clicking along nicely, but since the economy nearly flat-lined, money is tight, jobs are few, and people are scrutinizing their bills more closely. Thus, the holders of Discover cards discovered they were being charged for things they didn’t necessarily want… repeatedly. And, if a cardholder ever tried to get one of those plans or programs stopped, he or she might find it nearly impossible.

Kudos go to Richard Cordray who has become a folk hero of sorts, Cordray is the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), helped to put a stop to the practice of some banks’ telemarketers tricking and/or browbeating cardholders into purchasing payment protection plans and keeping them from being discontinued. ("Oh, yes, the credit should show up on your next bill!" were one telemarketer’s famous last words.)

Thus, after much ado, penalties have been agreed upon and determined to be paid by the offending banks. In the case of Capitol One, last July, the bank agreed to repay $150 million to customers and pay $60 million in civil fines; and now Discover will refund $200 million and pay $14 million in civil fines due to "deceptive marketing" practices. Discover customers who purchased the programs between December 1, 2007 and August 31, 2011, will not have to apply for these refunds, says Jim Puzzanghera of The Los Angeles Times, the refunds will depend upon when the customer purchased the program and how long they kept it.

These so-called penalties are likely a mere slap on the wrist for these banks. In any event, if you had a Discover card subject to this settlement, make sure you make a claim to get your money back. Do not let these folks get away with taking your money against your will. As one of my good friends often says: the only person who got what he wanted from a bank was Jesse James.