American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc., American Express Centurion Bank and American Express Bank were accused of unfair billing practices and deceptive marketing of add-on products, such as payment protection and credit monitoring.
“We first warned companies last year about using deceptive marketing to sell credit card add-on products, and everyone should be on notice of this issue,” said CFPB Director
American Express said in a statement that it has canceled the programs in question and made much of the restitution to customers.
The canceled programs include Identity Protect, Account Protector and Lost Wallet Protector, which was marketed in Puerto Rico.
"American Express continues to conduct internal reviews designed to identify issues, correct them and ensure that its products and practices meet a high standard of quality," the company said.
The CFPB alleged that from 2000 to 2012, the subsidiaries and their vendors and telemarketers engaged in misleading and deceptive tactics to sell some of the company's credit card add-on products. One such product, a payment protection product called "Account Protector," allowed consumers to request that 2.5% of their outstanding balance, up to $500, be canceled if they encounter certain life events like unemployment or temporary disabilities.
American Express also marketed its "Lost Wallet" product as being able to assist card members in Puerto Rico with canceling and replacing lost or stolen credit cards, including non-American Express cards, and providing other services, such as recovering lost or stolen documents.
The regulators said the companies misled consumers about the benefits of the products, the length of coverage and the costs.
The companies were also accused of unfair billing practices related to identity protection products. The company charged many consumers for these products without written authorization, the regulators said.
In addition, the companies were accused of unfairly charging card holders interest and fees. Some unfair monthly fees pushed account balances past their limits, causing additional unfair fees and interest, the regulators said.