Analysis of Proposed Consent Order
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement to a proposed consent order from DBC Financial, Inc. ("DBC Financial"). The agreement would settle a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission that DBC Financial engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.
This matter concerns representations made by DBC Financial in its advertising of the Delaware Bank Card, an automated teller machine ("ATM") bank card that offers direct deposit services with an affiliated bank. The administrative complaint alleges that DBC Financial violated the FTC Act by falsely representing: (1) that use of the Delaware Bank Card requires no upfront fees, when, in fact, use of the card requires an account setup fee of $19.95, as well as a monthly service fee of $9.95; (2) that the Delaware Bank Card is affiliated with a United States government agency, institution, or program, when in fact it is not; and (3) that use of the Delaware Bank Card automatically provides free overdraft protection services of up to $1,000 a year, when in fact the card charges an overdraft protection fee of $19.95 for every month in which the consumer's account is overdrawn by up to $80.00.
To remedy the violations charged and to prevent respondent from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future, the proposed order contains injunctive provisions and a consumer redress program. Part I of the order prohibits respondent, in connection with the advertising or sale of the Delaware Bank Card or any Bank Card or Bank Card-related service or product, from making any misrepresentation or material omission concerning the costs, benefits, or conditions of the Bank Card or Bank Card-related service or product, including the following: (1) that use of the Bank Card requires no up-front fees, if in fact DBC Financial is charging an Account Set-up fee or any other initial fee; and (2) that use of the Bank Card provides free of charge any overdraft protection services, if in fact DBC Financial is charging an overdraft protection fee.
Part II of the order prohibits respondent, in connection with the advertising or sale of the Delaware Bank Card or any Bank Card or Bank Card-related service or product, from misrepresenting that DBC Financial or any of its Bank Card or Bank Card-related services or products are affiliated in any way with any United States governmental agency, institution, or program.
Part III of the order requires respondent to clearly and conspicuously disclose, in connection with any representation about the availability of electronic transfer of funds from any government entity, the following: "NOTICE: The [Delaware Bank Card or Name of Bank Card] is NOT affiliated in any way with any federal government agency or program." This disclosure is not required, however, to the extent that respondent is promoting a U.S. Treasury-designated ETA on behalf of a financial institution that is participating in the government ETA program.
Part IV of the order requires respondent to pay $250,000.00 for the redress program and administrative costs. The redress program applies to certain consumers who, as of August 31, 1999, had an active Delaware Bank Card account and who were charged an account set-up fee. In addition, Part V of the order requires respondent to waive the account set-up fee of $19.95 for all Delaware Bank Card accounts opened between August 31, 1999 and January 31, 2000.
The proposed order also contains provisions regarding distribution of the order, record-keeping, notification of changes in corporate status, termination of the order, and the filing of a compliance report. The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and the proposed order or to modify their terms in any way.