The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Mastercard Inc. and UniRush LLC to pay $13 million for RushCard breakdowns that cut off users' access to funds.
The order was announced just two days after Green Dot Corp. said it would acquire UniRush and its RushCard business.
"Going forward, we are putting the prepaid industry on notice that companies will face the consequences if consumers are denied access to their money or to the services they pay for and on which they have the right to depend," CFPB Directer Richard Cordray said in his prepared remarks during a conference call about the order.
In October 2015, "tens of thousands" of users were unable to access their own money to pay for basic necessities due to the 'preventable' service breakdown, the CFPB said. UniRush did not provide customer service to those who reached out for help during the breakdown, the agency added.
UniRush is the program manager for reloadable prepaid debit card RushCard. UniRush picked Mastercard Payment Transaction Services as the payment processor for RushCard in 2014 and spent 13 months preparing to switch to Mastercard's processing platform, which took place over several days in October 2015, according to the CFPB.
The CFPB said the failures stemmed from UniRush not accurately transferring all accounts to Mastercard and led to about 1,110 people being incorrectly suspended due to Mastercard's actions. UniRush also delayed crediting cash deposits to consumers' accounts and terminated access to certain funds. In addition, UniRush delayed the processing of direct deposits of more than 45,000 consumers and improperly returned deposits of 2,000 other consumers.
The CFPB ordered Mastercard and UniRush to pay an estimated $10 million in restitution to affected customers and a separate civil monetary penalty of $3 million. The bureau also told the companies to devise a plan to prevent future service disruptions.