Beware Overdraft Fees – Bank of America changing deposit order.

“Spock: I am Vulcan, sir. We embrace technicality.” – Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

It pays to read the fine print, and embrace technicality.  Perhaps you do not necessarily need to embrace it, but at least understand it.  Today, I logged in to my Bank of America (“BOA”) free checking account and found a short sentence saying roughly “the way we post transactions is changing”.

After clicking “Learn More”, in the not so fine print, BOA explains that it is changing the order in which transactions are posted. The old way was to apply larger balances first so that, presumably a larger item such as your rent check would clear first, while smaller charges such as the milk and sugar might not but those little charges wouldn’t cause your whole account to be overdrawn.

The new way, according to BOA’s page today (Located at: http://promo.bankofamerica.com/postingorder1/) will post items in the order in which the transactions occur. Further, checks will post in the numerical order of the checks. All of this will make a difference if you are skating the fine line between your available balance and your expenditures.

Meaning, beware an increase in overdraft fees due to BOA’s new policy. There is no opting out of this new policy.
Do you have a tip regarding any other banks changing their posting order policy? If so, send an email or Tweet to @sampaiolaw. Or, take the poll: How much does your bank charge in overdraft fees?

.  BOA charges a whopping $35 per item.

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Own a small business? Beware official looking request from Corporate Records Service.

 

Official looking envelope from for profit, non-government company Corporate Record Services

Official looking envelope

I received an official looking envelope from for profit, non-government company Corporate Record Services today.  It looks like it could be from the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. But, alas it is not.  It is a for-profit company trying to make money from busy, unsuspecting small business owners.  Inside the envelope are two items: one is the solicitation letter, captioned “INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING THE ANNUAL MINUTES FORM” and the other a “2013 – ANNUAL MINUTES FORM”.  The fee, it says is a whopping $125.00.  Well, that is perhaps $125 that could be better spent elsewhere because State of Florida does not require companies to file annual minutes. Apparently, Corporate Records Service is sending out the same forms in Oregon and raising some eyebrows there [see article here The Desk: Businesses warned about letters from Corporate Records Service | OregonLive.com].

You could certainly pay someone else, such as an attorney to prepare annual minutes for you. Indeed, as the Corporate Records Service letter correctly states:

“Maintaining records is important to the existence of all corporations. In particular the recording of shareholders and director meetings. You can engage an attorney to prepare them, prepare them yourself, use some other service company or use our service.” See Corporate Record Services form Ah ha! There is that pesky disclaimer. 

Businesses must keep minutes of their meetings, along with other important documents; however, most of these documents do not have to be filed with the state.   There are many free resources online from the SBA or from the state in which your company is located. Several low cost guides from organizations such as NOLO  are also available to help guide you. I recommend NOLO’s book Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business.

There are times when you should to pay for help, and seek legal advice, but there are others instances when you can do a little work on your own. In my view, preparing the annual minutes is one of them.  

My Disclaimer: This information is general, and is not legal advice tailored to your situation. This information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship with The Sampaio Law Firm, PA (Miami, Florida).  An attorney-client relationship would require a written agreement that confirms that a relationship has been established. Please feel free to contact me for more information at sasha@sampaiolaw.com.

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Big creditors like AMEX CapitalOne and Discover must repay consumers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of the United States has had some recent big victories against three major creditors – American Express, Capital One, and Discover.  As a result, some consumers will be receiving money back from their creditors. For example:

  • American Express customers who settled old debts based on misinformation supplied by AMEX may receive a refund.  For example, if American Express told you that if you settled a debt, it would improve your credit rating; however, as it turns out the debt was already too old to report and would not change your credit history. In this case, you might be owed a refund from AMEX.
  • Capital One customers who signed up for an add-on product, even those who signed up and then unsuccessfully tried to cancel a product, will be entitled to a refund of the product fees plus any finance charges and overdraft fees.
  • Discover customers will also be entitled to similar refunds for add-on products like ID theft protection and credit score tracking.

More details can be found through the CFPB website.  For example, American Express is now bound by a Consent Order [Here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/2012-CFPB-0002-American-Express-Centurion-Consent-Order.pdf  requiring it, among other things, to stop deceptive advertising.

The CFPB also provides fact sheets on each of these cases.  Here is the Capital One fact sheet: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201207_cfpb_ending_deceptive_marketing_practices.pdf

In short, it is important that you know all of your rights and the current status of the law before you settle a debt with a credit card company. And, if you are one of the lucky ones getting a refund, you have the CFPB to thank!

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Filed under consumer law, contracts, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau moving forward…despite big banks’ congressional allies

President continues to promote consumer protection at the Federal level by naming a new Director on Wednesday despite legislators attempts to thwart efforts .

“With a director in place, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be able to start overseeing the mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial companies often blamed for practices that helped tank the economy.

Obama’s decision to make a recess appointment is certain to cause an uproar from Capitol Hill to Wall Street. He is essentially declaring the Senate’s short off-and-on legislative sessions a sham intended to block his appointments.”

“In a defiant display of executive power, President Barack Obama on Wednesday will buck GOP opposition and name Richard Cordray as the nation’s chief consumer watchdog even though the Senate contends the move is inappropriate”

Read more at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9S26H3G1.htm

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Support Wikipedia

Support Wikipedia

Because freedom of information is so crucial to consumer rights, I support Wikipedia and made a very small donation today. Wikipedia is not supported by advertising, as it aims to be a free exchange of information, by the people and for the people.

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Copyright Infringement Notice for Downloading Movies ( BitTorrent ) – Do Not Settle

If you, or someone you know, received a letter requesting that you sign a “LIABILITY RELEASE AGREEMENT” or that requests that you send a sum of money as a “settlement fee” (around $2500) for copyright infringement, please contact attorney Sasha Sampaio today. There is no cost to you for this consultation and we may be able to help you.

The Sampaio Law Firm is investigating possible violations on behalf of people who received letters stating they have been included in a lawsuit for copyright infringement by downloading a motion picture or movie. The letters usually include language which identifies an alleged “Infringed Motion Picture” download and states that the consumer was identified by their IP address.

Please call (305) 479-9520 or (305) 350-7727, send an email to sasha@sampaiolaw.com or fill out the contact form at http://www.sampaiolaw.com/Contact.html to find out more about your rights!

The Sampaio Law Firm is located at 44 West Flagler Street in Miami, Florida. Website: http://www.consumerlawfl.com and http://www.sampaiolaw.com

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Filed under consumer law, copyright infringement

The Fine Print in Consumer Contracts

As both a consumer and an attorney, I read the fine print.  Every time you click a link with “Accept” at the bottom, you probably just scrolled through a long contract that you didn’t bother to read.   What is in that contract?  If you’ve landed here, it’s probably because you are having a problem with a consumer product or service. Before you start complaining, you need to find and read the fine print.  Chances are the problem you are experiencing is probably contained somewhere in the contract. For example, cell phone keeps dropping your calls? Tough luck, most mobile phone service providers specifically state that network availability is not guaranteed – don’t believe me? Check the fine print.  To avoid unwanted surprises, read the contract first. If you don’t have time, at least do a Google search on the company.  You can find out a lot about most companies, their practices and other consumers’ experiences with them before you decide to sign up.

In addition, contracts change. Don’t throw away those little black and while fine print pamphlets that come with your bill. The company is probably making a change to your agreement with them, and if you do nothing, you will accept the new terms. You may have to do something to exercise your rights.  This happens with credit card companies.  Everything is subject to a contract these days, and you must be vigilant to stay informed. For example, AT&T is going to implement a cap on bandwidth for its broadband users beginning in May 2011.  What does this mean for you?  If you are one of the users who is “hogging” bandwidth, watch out because you will now be subject to bandwidth caps. For a discussion of the practical aspect of AT&T’s change see this article by David Lazarus at Los Angeles Times (reposted in the Knoxville News).

The point is: read the fine print before you agree. If you don’t want to read it, at least read the last few paragraphs or do a search on the internet, your rights and your pocketbook depend on it.

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Filed under AT&T, consumer law, contracts