by Frederick H. Lowe
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today ordered American Express Co., the New York-based credit – and charge-card issuer led by Kenneth I. Chenault, to refund an estimated $59.5 million to more than 335,000 consumers for illegal credit-card practices.
American Express was also ordered to pay an additional $9.6 million in civil penalties to CFPB, which is based in Washington, D.C.
The CFPB said American Express’s practices included unfair billing tactics and deceptive marketing with respect to credit card “add-on products,” such as payment protection and credit monitoring.
“We first warned companies last year about using deceptive marketing to sell credit card add-on products, and everyone should be on notice of this issue,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB. “Today we are refunding thousands of American Express customers who were harmed by these illegal practices. Consumers deserve to be treated fairly and should not pay for services they do not receive.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is fining American Express Centurion Bank$3.6 million, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is fining American Express Bank, FSB $3 million.
On its website, American Express announced that certain subsidiaries had reached settlements with several regulatory agencies concerning marketing and billing practices. The subsidiaries signed consent orders with the CFPB, FDIC and the OCC.
The settlements involve American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., American Express Centurion Bank and American Express Bank, FSB.
The consent orders cited Lost Wallet Protector, Account Protector and Identity Protect/Identity Protect Premium. Identity Protect//Identity Protect Premium are designed to help consumers detect and prevent identity theft.
The Lost Wallet Protector, which is marketed in Puerto Rico, helps consumers replace lost or stolen credit, debit and ATM cards. Account Protector is designed to help cardholders pay outstanding card balances when under certain circumstances such as job loss.
American Express said it is conducting internal reviews designed to identify questionable customer-service issues and to correct them.