Citizens Bank to Pay $137.5M to Settle Overdraft Suit
Boston Globe Online
April 25, 2012
Healy, Beth; Wallack, Todd
Citizens Bank agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of deliberately processing customers’ debit card and ATM transactions in such an order as to generate excess overdraft fees. The suit is part of multi-district litigation involving more than 30 different banks before US District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami. Bank of America last year agreed to pay $410 million to settle similar charges, and JPMorgan Chase this past February agreed to pay $110 million. “We think [that re-ordering transactions from highest amount to lowest is] a bogus practice if it causes overdrafts,” said Linda Sherry of the advocacy group Consumer Action. However, she added, the high cost of litigation has deterred many banks from shuffling transactions and encouraged them to instead process payments in the order they were made. “Actions like this do set some precedent,” she said. “It sends a huge message to the industry.” Still, some consumer interests continue to push regulators to crack down even more on overdraft fees -- for example, by extending the consent requirements for overdraft protection to checks and by forcing banks to better explain the potential cost of signing up for coverage. “The banks go out of their way to make it sound like a wonderful thing, but it’s not,” Sherry said.
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