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The Capital One Financial settlement with U.S. regulators over deceptive marketing of credit card "add-on products" means a lot to all consumers, not just Capital One customers, according to consumer advocates.
Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of advocacy group U.S. PIRG, says it's significant to the future of the agency that this first move was against a big company over a pernicious practice.
"This is a big event for a young agency," Ed said. "They brought their first action against one of the biggest, most politically active firms, and that will send a clear message that violations of the law will not be tolerated."
Capital One agreed to pay $150 million to reimburse more than 2 million customers who bought aggressively marketed payment protection and credit monitoring services; customers will get a credit on their accounts or a check in the mail.
What does the CFPB action mean for Capital One customers and everyone else?
1. Stronger warnings for consumers about add-on services
Mierzwinski said, "Consumers should know that credit protection and monitoring are the worst add-on products you can buy."
2. Customers will get no-hassle refunds.
Capital One is responsible, with oversight, for determining who is entitled to refunds and will either credit current accounts or mail out checks.
3. Others might benefit directly, too.
"This settlement is not unique and I expect there to be more activity," CFPB director Richard Cordray said at a press conference on Wednesday.
While Capital One is the only company currently not allowed to market these add-on credit card products at all - they have to get a plan approved by the CFPB before they can resume - Mierzwinski expects other credit card issuers to stop selling them. "It would be stupid to continue to market this kind of product," he said.
4. Other shoes will drop.
Both the CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which partnered on the action against Capital One, have web-based complaint systems where consumers can enter information. The CFPB says it will follow up with any Capital One customers who feel they didn't get a refund when they were due one, and also for customers of other banks who feel they've been duped.
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