NEW YORK — Citigroup will refund $700 million to consumers and will pay $70 million in fines for illegal and deceptive credit card practices, the bank and federal regulators said Tuesday.
The order, coming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is the latest multimillion-dollar settlement against the largest credit card issuers for their role in selling “add-on” products to customers, such as credit score monitoring or “rush” processing of payments. Bank of America reached a similar, slightly larger settlement with regulators in 2014 and JPMorgan Chase was fined in 2013.
Under its agreement with the CFPB, Citi will issue refunds to 8.8 million affected consumers who paid for these types of add-on products, and will pay two separate $35 million fines to the CFPB and to the federal bank regulator the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The settlement comes on the five-year anniversary of the creation of the CFPB, which came into existence through the passage of the Dodd-Frank law that overhauled the financial industry following the 2008 financial crisis.
“We continue to uncover illegal credit card add-on practices that are costing unknowing consumers millions of dollars,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement.
“This is the tenth action we”ve taken against companies in this space for deceiving consumers.”
Some of the illegal activity by Citi goes back to as early as 2000, the CFPB said, and ended in 2013, and covers a range of products sold by Citi and third-party affiliates.
In one allegation, Citi telemarketers were said to have sold consumers identity theft protection services with a 30-day “free” trial, when no such free trial existed; or signed up consumers for an add-on service when it was ambiguous whether the consumer actually said they wanted it.
In another situation, Citi sold credit monitoring services when Citi wasn”t performing such services.
Citi also allegedly misrepresented its customers by charging a $14.95 “expedited” payment fee to customers who made over-the-phone payments and did not tell consumers about no-fee options.
Credit card add-on services were a lucrative source of revenue for banks for several years, sold to consumers as ways to protect their credit scores or identities or protect them if they lost their jobs.
Banks” marketing of such services largely ended after increased regulatory scrutiny.