AmEx Settles With Feds Over Add-On Products

American Express has agreed to pay a $16 million fine and issue nearly $60 million in customer refunds. The settlement with the federal government involves allegations that AmEx misrepresented the value of add-on services, such as identity theft protection.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now American Express has agreed to a settlement that's worth more than $75 million. This deals with claims that the company misled customers about some of its, quote, "add-on" products.

NPR's Sam Sanders explains.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Banks and finance companies sell safety. Security.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMERICAN EXPRESS AD)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But are you too comfortable? These days, crime can happen in a few keystrokes. American Express can help protect you.

SANDERS: But, the federal government says American Express went too far selling some of its so-called add-on services.

One was supposed to cancel a portion of a cardholder's balance if they face hardship like unemployment or disability. The government says the program actually covered just $500 - much less than users were led to believe.

Another American Express add-on that came under scrutiny - identity protection services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says AmEx charged customers for credit monitoring before actually monitoring their credit. They also didn't tell customers that they could receive a free credit report.

Almost $60 million of the $75 million the company is paying will go to American Express customers - some 335,000 of them. The rest of the money is a fine that goes to the government.

American Express says it's working to fix the problem. And they're issuing refunds or checks to customers affected.

Capital One, Discover and JPMorgan Chase have also settled similar allegations regarding add-ons.

Last year, American Express had to reimburse customers $85 million over illegal late fees, and other bad practices.

Sam Sanders, NPR News.

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