On July 30, consumers accused a national bank of requiring them to pay for unnecessary auto insurance in a class action complaint filed in the Northern District of California. See Hancock v. Wells Fargo & Co., Case No. 17-cv-04324 (N.D. Cal. Jul. 30, 2017). The consumers allege that they paid for protection against vehicle loss or damage while making monthly loan payments, even though many drivers allege that they already had their own policies. According to the complaint, the bank allegedly received kickbacks from an auto insurance company through shared commissions on policies for more than 800,000 auto loans, which resulted in nearly 250,000 loans becoming delinquent and nearly 25,000 “unlawful vehicle repossessions.” The consumers allege that when they took out auto loans, both the bank and the insurance company failed to check whether the consumer already had coverage or ignored the information, and then created Collateral Protection Insurance (CPI) policies which were “secretly” added to the auto loan bills and the costs automatically deducted from consumer bank accounts.

In addition to the costs incurred for the unlawful forced-placed insurance policies, consumers also claim to have experienced financial harm in the form of (i) inflated premiums and interest rates; (ii) delinquency charges and late fees; and (iii) repossession costs and damage to credit reports. Consumers seek restitution, disgorgement of revenues and/or profits, and compensatory damages.

Notably, before the class action complaint was filed, the bank issued a press release on July 27, announcing plans to remediate approximately 570,000 consumers who may have been financially harmed—less than the 800,000 cited in the complaint. The bank stated that it had conducted a review of CPI policies placed between 2012 and 2017 and stated, ““We take full responsibility for our failure to appropriately manage the CPI program and are extremely sorry for any harm this caused our customers, who expect and deserve better from us. . . . Upon our discovery, we acted swiftly to discontinue the program and immediately develop a plan to make impacted customers whole.”