US Sen. Sherrod Brown urged RushCard, the pre-paid debit card company, to cooperate with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in an investigation on the recent technical breakdown that temporarily blocked thousands of customers from accessing their accounts.
In response to a letter from Brown and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), RushCard said that the technical breakdown impacted 16,823 Ohio cardholders. The problem, which affected 442,000 consumers nationwide, prevented RushCard holders from being able to access their paychecks, their accounts, or their account balances for days. RushCard has until Dec. 12 to respond to the CFPB’s request for information related to the inquiry.
“RushCard owes it to the almost 17,000 Ohioans who were affected by this breakdown to cooperate with the investigation and ensure that this problem doesn’t happen again,” said Brown, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “The thousands of RushCard customers who couldn’t access their accounts to get their paychecks, buy groceries, pay bills, or pay rent deserve a much better explanation of how the company will make amends.”
RushCard, based in Cincinnati and founded by Russell Simmons in 2003, provides prepaid cards to nearly 500,000 consumers. Over Columbus Day weekend, the company transitioned to a new payment processor. During the transition, a breakdown resulted in thousands of RushCard holders being unable to access their accounts or receive funds, such as payroll checks or government benefits. This glitch reportedly continued for 18 days for a subset of the affected consumers, during which time consumers likely faced a cascade of financial difficulty, including unpaid bills, late fees, or overdraft fees by third parties.
RushCard said that it will create a “reimbursement fund” for people to submit claims for third-party fees or other reimbursements. The company also said it will waive fees outside of a “fee holiday” it has declared from Nov. 1 through the end of February.
In its response to Brown, RushCard said that as part of the restitution program, it would provide credits to cardholders who were “who were significantly impacted and are providing reimbursement to users who explain how the disruption and residual issues caused them harm.” But the company’s response letter did not indicate how customers will use the program, the review process for claims, or the length of time for reimbursement.
The Senators also called on RushCard to explain how the forced arbitration provision in its products will impact consumers. These clauses, often buried in the fine print of checking accounts, private student loans, credit cards, and other contracts, prevent consumers from taking companies to court or participating in class action lawsuits when a dispute arises. The CFPB issued a study in March that found that the rights of consumers nationwide are being limited by forced arbitration in the financial services industry. In October, the CFPB announced that it will begin rulemaking to limit forced arbitration clauses.