United Bank Faces Overdraft Fees Class Action

May 27 2011

Jackson County, WV: A class action lawsuit has been filed against United Bank, alleging debit card deception. The suit, filed by Jonathan Jones, a resident of Charleston, claims that United Bank unfairly and improperly structures debit card payments so customers will potentially incur overdraft fees, thereby contributing to the bank’s profits.

According to the suit, upon opening an account United customers are provided a booklet called "Rules and Regulations Governing Account" also known as the "Account agreement." In the agreement, United "makes no mention of [its] regular practice of reordering transactions from highest amount to lowest amount and charging overdraft fees when in fact an account has not been overdrafted."

The suit alleges that the reordering of the debit transactions has nothing "to do with the soundness of the banking system or operational efficiency." Instead, it is used "to maximize overdraft fees it can change."

Jones further alleges that United Bank did not warn him if his account was overdrawn, was going to be overdrawn or if additional transactions would result in overdraft fees. Further, the suit claims, in spite of knowing a customer has a negative balance, United "encourages the customer to incur more overdraft changes by approving - rather than prudently declining - subsequent debit card purchases and other electronic transactions."

Currently, United Bank, which has branches in 111 locations in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, charges $34 per overdraft. According to Jones' suit, United will charge an overdraft "for a 'negative balance' made exclusively of previously charged overdraft fees."

In his suit, Jones also claims that accounts with sufficient funds to cover debits also fall prey to overdraft fees, as United has charged an overdraft fee to accounts where it has placed a "hold" on actual funds though the account has not dropped below zero.

Along with certification of the suit as class-action, Jones asks that he, and other potential class members, be awarded unspecified damages, including disgorgement and restitution of all overdraft fees, statutory penalties for each violation of the state Consumer Credit and Protection Act, court costs, interest and attorney fees.



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