Regions Financial Corp. will pay $7.5 million in fines to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle allegations from the watchdog group that the bank charged overdraft fees to people who hadn’t opted in to a service to transfer funds to cover a shortfall.
The bank, which has refunded $49 million to hundreds of thousands of customers who were charged overdraft fees, agreed as part of the settlement to find and refund all other customers who were affected.
“Regions Bank failed to ask consumers if they wanted overdraft service before charging them fees,” CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “We take the issue of overdraft fees very seriously and will be vigilant about making sure that consumers receive the protections they deserve.”
After the financial crisis, new rules prohibited banks from charging overdraft fees unless consumers actively opted in to the protection and agreed to pay a fee to have the bank cover charges that would otherwise be declined.
But Regions failed to apply the change for people with checking accounts that are linked to a savings account or a credit line, instead continuing to charge customers up to $36 to cover those transactions. The bank, which has about $120 billion in assets, charged those fees for almost a year after it discovered the violation. It stopped charging the fees in June 2012, the CFPB said.
The bank, which has about 1,700 branches across 16 states in the South, Midwest and Texas, found other accounts early this year that had been charged the unauthorized fees.
“After discovering that a small subset of customers had been charged fees in error, we reported it to the CFPB and began refunding the fees,” the bank said in a statement. “We believe the vast majority of the refunds have been completed, and we have made changes to our internal systems to resolve these matters.”
The CFPB said the fine would have been larger if Regions Bank had not voluntarily refunded customers or self-reported the violations to the bureau. It is the agency’s first action against a bank for overdraft fees.