Banks are feeling increased pressure to reduce or eliminate overdraft fees that consumer advocates describe as “exploitative junk fees” that are squeezing consumers.
On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a report finding that banks have a “deep dependence” on overdraft and non-sufficient funds revenue, which reached an estimated $15.47 billion in 2019, the latest figures made available by the agency.
Three banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America — brought in 44% of the total reported that year by banks with assets over $1 billion, the CFPB report showed.
It also said many of the “fee harvesting practices” persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Rather than competing on transparent, upfront pricing, large financial institutions are still hooked on exploitative junk fees that can quickly drain a family’s bank account,” the CFPB said in a release.
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra vowed the organization “will be taking action to restore meaningful competition to this market.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on big banks to follow the lead of Capital One, which on Wednesday said it would eliminate all overdraft fees for retail banking customers.
“Bank overdraft fees snatch billions from struggling families & even during this pandemic, big banks raked in billions from this abusive practice,” Warren wrote in a tweet.
Earlier this year, Warren described JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon as the “star of the overdraft show.”
The CFPB report shows overdraft charges continue to overshadow other sources of fees, like account maintenance and ATM fees.
A second report the agency released on Wednesday shows that some new companies have come up with alternative models that shy away from these practices, yet “heavy overdraft fees” are still a big part of retail banking in the country, even throughout the pandemic.
“For many big banks, overdraft fees are still the steady, reliable, predictable, easy revenue that shareholders love,” the CFPB stated. “Indeed, the big banks harvested billions – billions – in overdraft fees off Americans during the pandemic. We have a clear market failure here.”
The CFPB, an agency that implements and enforces federal consumer financial law, said it will be “enhancing its supervisory and enforcement scrutiny” of banks that are heavily dependent on overdraft fees.