When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau penalized Capital One Bank $210 million last July for lying to its customers about products it was adding onto their monthly bills, it would have been reasonable to expect other credit card companies to swiftly stop using similar tactics. Apparently, that would have been expecting too much.
This week, the CFPB fined Discover Financial Services — a credit card company that likes to brag about its customer service in advertisements — for charging customers for add-on services they never ordered. In recorded phone conversations, the officials heard Discover’s third-party telemarketers asking customers vague questions like, “Wouldn’t you like to be protected from identity theft?” and then charging them after they answered yes. It was a deceptive tactic that could confuse even the shrewdest of consumers.
As a result of the investigation, Discover will now pay back $200 million to over 3.5 million customers, and pay an additional $14 million in fines. Unlike Capital One, which stopped offering its add-on products after the CFPB’s investigation, Discover says it will continue to sell add-ons despite the taint they now carry with them. Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s director, has vowed to continue investigating other credit card companies who sell similar products to customers over the phone. But hopefully by now they’ve gotten his message.