The consumer watchdog for Canada’s banks has fined Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce more than $1.2-million for previously disclosed errors that incorrectly charged fees to 1.3 million credit card customers over a 15-year span.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada announced the penalty on Thursday, citing five violations of its regulations that led to CIBC clients being improperly charged fees for exceeding credit-card spending limits, or higher premiums on optional creditor insurance. The issue was first disclosed publicly in 2018, after the bank voluntarily reported it to regulators in early 2017, and CIBC repaid $65.4-million to customers under a remediation plan, in addition to reversing a further $24.4-million in charges.
The FCAC also fined Canadian Western Bank $200,000 on Thursday for failing to disclose certain non-interest costs and fees on a number of its credit products, and subsidiary Canadian Western Trust a further $200,000 for not disclosing certain fees related to fixed-rate and variable-rate mortgages.
At CIBC, the issue began in February, 2003, when the bank changed the vendor and system it used to process payments for its credit card accounts. The new system created a delay of two to three days between the bank receiving certain payments and those payments being posted to the card holder’s account. Because that added delay wasn’t disclosed to clients, some were charged over-limit fees when “they had every reason to expect that their payment was made and received in time to avoid these costs,” the FCAC said in its decision.
CIBC discovered the problem more than 13 years later, in November, 2016, and a subsequent FCAC investigation found the error with credit insurance premiums.
“As soon as we identified the issue, we self-reported to regulators, corrected it and provided refunds, with interest, to affected clients in 2018,” CIBC spokesman Tom Wallis said in an e-mail. “We are committed to providing our clients with a great experience and to making it right if an issue arises. We are sorry for any inconvenience this issue may have caused our clients.”
The violations at CWB took place from 2010 to 2019, when the bank gave clients disclosure documents with an information box on the front page that didn’t include some fees for lines of credit or mortgages, including for appraisals, legal services or title insurance. As many as 7,172 clients may have been misled about $3.5-million in fees, the FCAC said, also chiding CWB for its “negligence” and “repeated failures to achieve agreed milestones in addressing these breaches.”
Over the same period, an information box on Canadian Western Trust forms failed to disclose application, renewal and discharge fees for some mortgages. The FCAC estimates that as much as $32.8-million in fees weren’t disclosed to 15,106 customers.
“CWB Financial Group takes our legal and regulatory responsibilities very seriously,” spokeswoman Angela Saveraux said in an e-mail. “We acknowledge the decisions published today and have taken the appropriate steps to ensure that our retail lending forms are correct and meet the standards of federal legislation.”
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.