Wells Fargo Bank settles lawsuit over recorded phone calls

Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $8.5 million and better inform customers when they are being recorded, California officials said Tuesday.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and district attorneys in five California counties sued San Francisco-based Wells Fargo last month, alleging the bank was breaking state law by not quickly telling customers that their telephone calls were being recorded.

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Customers won't be compensated under the agreement approved Monday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. But the settlement requires the bank to contribute $250,000 to each of two statewide organizations that promote consumer protection and privacy rights: the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund.

The settlement also requires the bank to pay more than $1.33 million to the attorney general's office and each of five district attorneys' offices, in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, San Diego and Alameda counties.

"Customer service is at the heart of everything we do, and Wells Fargo informs customers that calls are being recorded," the bank said in a statement. It agreed under the settlement to make sure that the required disclosure is made at the beginning of customer calls.

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California has some of nation's strongest privacy laws. Harris, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, said in a statement that enforcing them "is increasingly crucial as technology rapidly develops and becomes a bigger part of our lives."

She said Wells Fargo cooperated, without admitting liability, once it was told of the alleged shortcomings in how it was notifying customers.


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