- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fined fintech Digit $2.7 million Wednesday over claims the company used a “faulty algorithm” that caused overdrafts and overdraft penalties for customers.
- Digit “falsely guaranteed no overdrafts with its product, broke its promises to make amends on its mistakes, and pocketed a portion of the interest that should have gone to consumers,” the CFPB asserted.
- In addition to the fine, the bureau will require Digit to redress harmed customers. Oportun, a small-dollar lending company that acquired the fintech last year, said Digit owes 1,947 customers approximately $35 each, for a total of $68,145, according to a statement Wednesday.
Digit “positioned itself as a savings tool for consumers having trouble saving on their own. But instead, consumers ended up paying unnecessary overdraft fees,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a statement. “Companies have long been held to account when they engage in faulty advertising, and regulators must do the same when it comes to faulty algorithms.”
The fintech uses a proprietary algorithm to make automatic transfers, called auto-saves, from the consumer’s checking account to a separate account held in Digit’s name, the CFPB said.
Digit’s algorithm analyzes consumers’ checking-account data to determine when and how much to save for each consumer. The company charges a $5 monthly subscription fee for the service.
The CFPB said Digit routinely caused consumers’ checking accounts to incur overdraft fees charged by their banks, despite its claims that it “never transfers more than you can afford.” Digit received complaints about overdrafts daily, the CFPB said.
“The company also represented that if there was an overdraft, it would reimburse consumers. But the company often denied customers who tried to recoup their money,” the CFPB said, adding Digit had received nearly 70,000 overdraft-reimbursement requests since 2017.
The CFPB alleges the fintech also deceived consumers by keeping a significant amount of the interest earned on consumer funds, after it had promised not to.
“Had Hello Digit kept its promise to not keep the interest on consumers’ funds, consumers could have pocketed the extra savings,” the CFPB said.
Oportun, in a statement Wednesday, said it disagrees with the CFPB on the matter, but is “happy to have it settled.”
Digit received a civil investigative demand from the CFPB in 2020, with the purpose of determining whether the company misrepresented its products or services in a manner that is unfair, deceptive or abusive, Oportun said.
The investigation found Digit’s success rate was better than 99.99%, “meaning a Digit Save transaction caused an overdraft fee for one of our members less than 0.008% of the time,” Oportun said.