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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB fines fintech for algorithm-induced overdraft charges

Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement Consumer Finance Fintech Algorithms Overdraft Deceptive UDAAP CFPA

Federal Issues

On August 10, the CFPB announced a consent order against a California-based fintech company for allegedly using an algorithm that caused consumers to be charged overdrafts on their checking accounts when using the company’s personal finance-management app. According to the Bureau, the app promotes automated savings with a proprietary algorithm, which analyzes consumers’ checking-account data to determine when and how much to save for each consumer. The app then automatically transfers funds from consumers’ checking accounts to accounts held in the company’s name. The Bureau asserted, however, that the company engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of the CFPA by (i) causing consumers’ checking accounts to incur overdraft charges from their banks even though it guaranteed no overdrafts and represented that its app never transferred more than a consumer could afford; (ii) representing that it would reimburse overdraft charges (the Bureau claims the company has received nearly 70,000 overdraft-reimbursement requests since 2017); and (iii) keeping interest that should have gone to consumers even though it told consumers it would not keep any interest earned on consumer funds. Under the terms of the consent order, the company is required to provide consumer redress for overdraft charges that it previously denied and must pay a $2.7 million civil penalty.

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