M&T Bank Fined for Touting Free Checking That Wasn’t Really Free

M&T Bank Corp. will pay $2.9 million in refunds to customers to resolve a U.S. regulator’s claims that the bank used deceptive advertising in marketing free checking accounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that Buffalo, New York-based M&T lured consumers with promises of “no strings attached” checking without disclosing key eligibility requirements, the agency said today in a statement.

Customers who failed to meet the requirements were switched to accounts with fees, the consumer bureau said. In addition to the refunds for approximately 59,000 consumers who ended up paying fees, the bank will pay a $200,000 fine, according to the agency’s statement.

“Tens of thousands of consumers ended up paying for a product they had thought was free,” Richard Cordray, the consumer bureau’s director, said in the statement. “This is an important reminder to all banks and credit unions that they cannot misstate to consumers whether a financial product or service is free.”

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