Thursday, April 2, 2009

Over the Top Overdraft Fees

As if banks weren’t in enough trouble already, now more than one is being sued for over-penalizing account holders with excessive overdraft fees.

According to, a suit filed by Georgia resident Ken Vollmer claims Wachovia “posted charges to consumer accounts in such a way as to maximize overdraft fees, even at times when the actual funds in the account are sufficient to cover the transaction.”
There are similar bad-faith bank fee suits pending in federal courts across the country, not only against Wachovia but also against Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which took over Wachovia last October. Those suits accuse the banks of deceptive practices intended to maximize bank profits at the expense of their customers and challenge bank policies governing the assessment of overdraft fees.
No one is denying banks their right to charge overdraft fees. It’s the method in which they post drafts and deposits that is being questioned. If banks rearrange postings, as court documents claim they are doing, to post larger amounts first this may be considered to be deceptive and in violation of states’ fair business practices laws.

What can you do? Keep tabs on your account and watch for questionable charges. You can learn more about how overdraft charges work and what you can do to minimize them at the Federal Reserve website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chinese Drywall: Something Smells Rotten

Plagued by complaints from homeowners about unusual sulfur odors coming from new drywall, the Florida Department of Health commissioned Unified Engineering to perform a study of drywall, comparing three Chinese-made samples to American brand National Gypsum Co.’s GridMarx brand. Results were released this week.

"There is a distinct difference in drywall that was manufactured in the United States and those that were manufactured in China,” said Lori Streit, a principal scientist with Unified, in a letter. “The Chinese samples contained traces of strontium sulfide inclusions and more organic material than the GridMarx sample ( United States ). However, it is not yet known if either contributed to the odor.”

State releases findings of drywall investigation Jacksonville Business Journal 3/23/09

The Chinese drywall is extremely toxic and corrosive as evidenced by the fact it corroded copper and electrical wiring within a relatively short time after installation. (See CNN video here.) Required removal and repair is extensive and expensive. Some consumers have also experienced headaches, sore throats and other health problems. As a result of complaints, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is also investigating the complaints.

According to an article in Time, imports of Chinese drywall increased dramatically in 2006. Why? Because as they have done with other products previously investigated for inferior quality and outright danger to users, the Chinese obtain a competitive price advantage over the products of National Gypsum and other U. S. manufacturers, by cutting quality and safety. The U. S. homeowner and manufacturer each lose, because of a poor quality foreign product that is not subject to U. S. regulation.

More than 550 million tons of the defective drywall were shipped and used to build more than 60,000 homes in more than a dozen states. Texas is one of them.

Currently, class action suits have been filed in Florida as well as Alabama and Louisiana. If your relatively new home is under siege from toxic fumes, consider the source. And, contact an attorney to learn more about your rights as a homeowner.