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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court dismisses EFTA claims concerning fraudulent transactions

Courts EFTA Covid-19 Consumer Finance Fraud

Courts

On August 18, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed a class action alleging violations of the EFTA brought against a national bank on behalf of consumers who were issued prepaid debit cards providing Covid-19 pandemic unemployment insurance payments. Two of the plaintiffs alleged they experienced fraudulent transactions on their accounts. According to the plaintiffs, the bank froze one of the defendant’s accounts but failed to credit his account for the allegedly fraudulent transaction. In response to a second plaintiff’s fraud report, the bank allegedly froze her account and informed her that she had “to contact the unemployment agency because an unauthorized person had ‘gained access to the card and was using the unemployment benefits.’” The third plaintiff alleged that the bank froze her account based on suspected fraud and was informed that she would have to contact someone else to unfreeze the account. Plaintiffs sued for violations of the EFTA and raised several breach of contract and negligence claims.

The court dismissed the EFTA claim on several grounds, including that (i) the second plaintiff’s claim is time-barred; (ii) the other two plaintiffs’ claims stem from the bank’s alleged errors related to unauthorized transactions, yet neither requested information or clarification about an electronic funds transfer; (iii) one of the plaintiffs never actually experienced fraud (the court emphasized that the EFTA does not regulate account freezes; it regulates electronic funds transfers); and (iv) one of the plaintiff’s failed to plausibly plead that he complied with the EFTA’s notification requirements that must be met before a defendant conducts an investigation. The court also determined that the breach of contract claims failed, citing, among other things, that if an account did not have an unauthorized transaction a defendant cannot breach its reimbursement duties. Nor did the other two plaintiffs provide proper notice to trigger the bank’s duty to investigate, the court wrote, adding that the negligence claims also failed because the plaintiffs failed to respond to a request asking them to show how the bank’s actions caused them injury.

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