Discover to refund $200 million to customers for deceptive telemarketing

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Discover Bank has agreed to refund $200 million to more than 3.5 million cardholders over claims of deceptive telemarketing.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced the agreement Monday, September 24th, following a joint investigation that found Discover’s telemarketing and sales strategies misled consumers. In addition to refunding customers, Discover Bank, a subsidiary of Discover Financial Services, will pay a $14 million penalty that will be split between the two regulators.

The agencies said Discover telemarketers used deceptive language to convince cardholders to pay for additional products like payment protection, identity theft protection and credit score tracking.

“Discover’s telemarketing scripts contained misleading language likely to deceive consumers about whether they were actually purchasing a product,” the CFPB and FDIC said in a statement. “Discover’s telemarketers also often downplayed key terms and spoke quickly during the part of the call in which the prices and terms of the add-on products were disclosed.”

As a result, many customers were unaware they were going to be charged for one of these “add-on” products or they were enrolled without their consent, the regulators said.

“We have worked hard to earn the loyalty of our cardmembers, and we are committed to marketing our products responsibly,” said David Nelms, chairman and chief executive officer of Discover, in a statement about the agreement.

The $200 million will be given to cardholders who purchased credit protection products over the phone from December 2007 to August 2011. The amount each customer receives depends on what the product was, when it was purchased and how long the customer had it for. Customers will be refunded at least 90 days’ worth of fees they were charged for the products, and the refunds will be automatically credited to their accounts.

Discover has also agreed to make changes to its telemarketing practices to put a stop to deceptive sales tactics, and its compliance will be subject to audit, the CFPB and FDIC said.

The settlement comes on the heels of the CFPB’s first public enforcement action taken in July against Capital One. The CFPB announced that Capital One would refund $140 million to customers and pay an additional $25 million penalty, also for using deceptive marketing tactics to mislead cardholders into buying extra products.

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