RushCard has agreed to pay a total of $20.5 million to customers who were temporarily locked out of their prepaid card accounts last year, according to court documents filed this week.
The preliminary settlement, which still needs court approval, includes about $19 million to reimburse customers for fees and other costs they faced after they lost access to their accounts for days. The remaining $1.5 million will go toward attorney fees.
RushCard, a prepaid card created by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, faced technical issues last October while it was transitioning to another payment processor. The glitch left more than 132,000 customers unable to access their accounts for several days. Some cardholders said they had transactions rejected or that they fell behind on bills.
“The company recognized that their service had caused frustration and unhappiness and damages [to cardholders],” said John Yanchunis, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs in the class-action suit.
Yanchunis said he was glad that UniRush, the parent company for RushCard, agreed to a settlement because it could have enforced an arbitration clause that blocked consumers from the class-action suit.
The settlement includes some of the payments and breaks that customers have already received — including $25 credits given to some consumers and a “fee holiday” that waived monthly fees for all customers between November and February.
The agreement also called for RushCard to reimburse customers for any fees they paid from Oct. 12 to Oct. 31, the time that they might have been locked out of their accounts. But some customers might qualify for additional funds.
People who faced other financial setbacks during the time they couldn’t tap into their accounts, such as overdraft charges or late payment fees, can file a claim to be compensated for those costs. Customers can receive up to $100 each if they don’t have the paperwork to support their claims. People with the documentation to prove their losses could receive more, up to $500 each. But in both cases, consumers would need to subtract any other payments they may have already received from the company for those expenses.
Prepaid cards are often used in place of a checking account by low-income workers or people who don’t have bank accounts, according to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts. Simmons, who publicly apologized to customers about the issue, has said he started the card to provide a more affordable option for people who may have paid high fees to cash their checks.
The company hopes its latest efforts will help make customers whole.
“We are pleased to have reached this preliminary settlement which will resolve the claims of our cardholders,” Rick Savard, the chief executive of UniRush, said in a statement. “We believe this settlement fairly compensates our customers who were inconvenienced.”
Consumers will receive notices in the mail after the court gives the settlement preliminary approval, Yanchunis said, adding that he thinks approval will be likely since the plaintiffs have accepted the deal. After final approval, which could come as soon as four or five months, cardholders who qualify could start to see checks in the mail.
News of the settlement, which was first reported by Law360, may be welcomed by cardholders who struggled financially after losing access to their accounts. But it doesn’t mean the company is done answering questions about the incident.
After news spread of the technical issues, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requested documents and other information from RushCard so that it could investigate the cause of the outage and find out what the company was doing to compensate consumers. RushCard asked for more time to provide the documents, but the agency denied that request. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the CFPB said it does not comment on ongoing or potential enforcement activities.