The complaint for this class action names Boeing Employees’ Credit Union (BECU) as defendant. The allegations? That BECU charges members fees for overdrafts created by the use of debit cards and ATM transactions without first obtaining their assent to this in their agreements.
The class for this action is all Washington residents against whose accounts BECU charged one or more overdraft fees for one-time debit card or ATM transactions, between June 28, 2013 through the date of final judgment in this case, for whom BECU cannot show those persons’ affirmative consent to the overdraft fees for such transactions.
The complaint alleges that certain federal regulations “that BECU specifically incorporates into its Account Agreement require that BECU obtain and confirm consent in a specified format from each member before creating an overdraft based on an ATM of one-time debt card transaction and charging that member a fee for the overdraft.” However, the complaint alleges that BECU in fact does not do this.
BECU is a credit union located in Washington, and it is not small; it has roughly $19.6 billion in assets and serves more than 1.16 customer-members.
BECU boasts of its consumer-friendly outlook, the complaint alleges, saying, “Compared to average bank customers, BECU members may save more as a result of our lower rates and fewer fees.”
Overdraft and other fees have been a bone of contention between customers and consumer financial institutions in recent years. Some banks and other institutions even manage to charge multiple overdraft fees from the order in which transactions are processed, or multiple non-sufficient fund fees from a single request for a transaction. The Pew Charitable Trusts reported in 2014 that more than 60 percent of transactions resulting in overdraft fees were for less than $50, making normal overdraft fees a very high rate of interest on the “loans” represented by the overdrafts.
The complaint says, “In its 2008 study, the FDIC found that banks imposed the vast majority of overdraft fees through ‘automated’ overdraft programs … and found that over 75% of banks automatically enrolled customers in an automated overdraft programs without obtaining their affirmative consent.” And that wasn’t all: “The study further found that banks that operated automated overdraft programs received 90% of the overdraft fees taken in by the entire study population.”
Banks and credit unions are now required to obtain opt-in consent from customers to overdraft programs. If not, the complaint says, “the institution is prohibited from charging the consumer overdraft fees on ATM and one-time debit card transactions.”