(AP) — GE Capital Retail Bank has agreed to pay $169 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of discriminating against Hispanic credit card customers, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The Justice Department called it the largest government credit-card discrimination settlement ever. The department joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in announcing the agreement.
In addition, GE Capital must refund $56 million to about 638,000 consumers who were subjected to deceptive marketing practices to promote extra credit-card products known as "add-ons," in an agreement with the CFPB. The practices included falsely marketing products as free of charge, failing to tell consumers that they didn't qualify for the offers because they were retired or disabled, failing to make it clear that consumers were making a purchase and falsely telling them the offers were for a limited time only.
GE Capital also is paying a $3.5 million penalty to the CFPB for deceptive marketing.
The $169 million settlement resolves allegations that the bank excluded Hispanic borrowers from two of its credit card debt-repayment programs. The programs allowed customers with delinquent accounts to settle their balances by paying off a specific portion of the debt. That denied a significant benefit to all customers who had expressed a preference to communicate with the bank in Spanish or had a mailing address in Puerto Rico – even if they met the criteria for the programs, the government said.