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Friday, June 21, 2024

CFPB Overhauls Overdraft Rules, Targets Big Banks’ Exploitative Fees

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced changes to overdraft protection, closing a longstanding loophole. President Biden applauds the move, labeling high overdraft fees as exploitation, while banking trade groups express opposition.

Closing a Decades-Old Loophole

The CFPB unveiled a new rule aiming to end the exemption of overdraft loans from the consumer protections mandated by the 1968 Truth in Lending Act. This move addresses a decades-old loophole that has allowed banks to charge exorbitant overdraft fees.

Impact on Consumers

American consumers have paid an estimated $280 billion in bank overdraft fees since 2000, with large banks deriving substantial annual revenue from these fees. President Biden criticizes the exploitative nature of such fees, particularly their impact on vulnerable individuals.

Targeting Major Institutions

The new regulations will specifically apply to banks with assets exceeding $10 billion, around 175 institutions that collectively contribute to over 80% of overdraft fees annually. The rule is expected to be finalized in the coming year and implemented by October 2025.

Opposition from Banking Trade Groups

Banking trade groups, opposed to changes in overdraft rules, are mobilizing against the proposed regulations. The Consumer Bankers Association has launched a campaign advocating for the value of overdraft services, arguing against government mandates.

Two Options for Big Banks

The proposed rule offers two options for major banks regarding commercial overdraft coverage. The first option involves treating overdraft loans as credit line loans, subject to Truth in Lending Act regulations, providing more consumer protections. The second allows banks to continue overdraft coverage as a courtesy service, subject to benchmark-based fees.

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Benchmark Rates and Fee Regulation

Under the second option, banks can charge fees in line with their costs or based on established benchmarks, ranging from $3 to $14 per transaction. The CFPB aims to prevent surprise overdrafts and fees by introducing regulations to align fees with actual costs or industry benchmarks.

Scrutiny and Enforcement

The CFPB has been scrutinizing overdraft fee practices, and the proposed rule is part of a broader effort to crack down on what the Biden administration terms “junk fees.” The agency aims to protect consumers from fees charged without proper notice and reflective of the true service costs.

Prior Enforcement Actions

The CFPB’s focus on overdraft fees has led to enforcement actions against banks. Notably, Atlantic Union Bank and Regions Bank faced penalties for illegal practices related to checking account overdraft programs, highlighting the need for regulatory intervention.

As the proposed rule undergoes further consideration and potential revisions, it marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing effort to reform banking practices and protect consumers from exploitative fees.

Austin Kaiser
Austin Kaiser
Austin Kaiser is a self-taught value investor with over 10 years of experience. He holds an MBA from Florida State University and certifications in Risk Management Assurance and Internal Auditing. Austin covers the Business News category for our site.

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