Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Consumer agency to take hard look at banks' overdraft fees

NEW YORK — The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday that it will investigate overdraft fees, including how they are marketed and explained to customers.

The agency said the inquiry could result in additional rules, perhaps even lawsuits.

Overdraft fees are charged by banks when customers try to spend more money than they have in an account. Banks will allow the transaction, then charge the customer a penalty of as much as $35.

"We've heard many stories about the $40 cup of coffee," the agency's director, Richard Cordray, told reporters and representatives from banks and consumer groups.

Cordray and representatives from four consumer advocacy groups said that the overdraft fees hurt the people who can least afford them because poorer customers are more likely to drain their checking accounts to close to zero.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the government has clamped down on bank practices that it considers unfair, such as marketing credit cards to teenagers.

Banks have complained that some of the government's moves have been too intrusive.

In 2010, the Federal Reserve barred banks from automatically enrolling customers in so-called overdraft protection programs for debit card or ATM transactions. Without overdraft protection, a transaction is declined if the customer can't cover it.

The rule did not apply to checks, online bill payments or recurring debits, such as having the monthly cable bill automatically sent to your debit card. It also did not limit how much banks can charge for the service.

Banks have responded by marketing overdraft protection aggressively. Some told customers that opting out of overdraft protection could prevent them from making everyday transactions, including "medical or health emergencies," according to research published last year by the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer group that opposes overdraft fees.

Cordray said the problem is not just the fees but that banks often don't explain them clearly. One bank, which he did not name, required customers to visit three different websites and scroll through 50 pages of dense text just to get an explanation, he said.

Representatives of consumer groups who appeared with Cordray said customers would rather have their cards declined than be charged the fee. A representative of Citigroup, one of the country's largest banks, said customers prefer to avoid the embarrassment.

Comments
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Published: 12/15/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17