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Consumer Confidential: BofA's new overdrafts; online agents fined; Q-Ray refunds

May 6, 2011 | 10:39 am

Bofapic Here's your fight-club Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Is this a good idea? Bank of America says it will start texting customers if they're about to make a debit-card transaction that surpasses available funds. If the customer says OK, the transaction will go through with an overdraft fee attached. Currently, BofA bars any debit card transaction for customers that would incur an overdraft fee. Beginning early next year, the bank will give customers the option to get hit with an overdraft fee in return for being able to spend money they don't have. It's nice that people will have more choices, but ... really? Is it truly in consumers' best interest to charge them extra at the point of purchase to go into debt? A cynical person -- not me, of course -- would suspect that BofA senses this is a nifty way to make more money by catching people at a financially vulnerable moment.

-- Uncle Sam wants online travel agents to come clean. The Department of Transportation says five ticketing services -- Fareportal, American Travel Solutions, AirGorilla, Wholesale Travel Center and Automobile Club of New York -- are being fined a combined $175,000 for failing to disclose "code-sharing" arrangements between airlines. In other words, they didn't tell passengers that part of their trip would be aboard a regional carrier, not a major airline. Code-sharing became an issue after a 2009 regional airline crash near Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people. Passengers booked flights on Continental Airlines with the Buffalo leg described as a "Continental Connection." The flight was actually operated by Colgan Air.

-- Did you buy a bracelet called the Q-Ray? If so, you may be due some cash. The Federal Trade Commission is mailing nearly $12 million worth of refund checks to consumers taken in by false claims for the bauble. If you filed a claim form, you could receive about $50 for your trouble. The FTC says QT Inc., Q-Ray Co. and Bio-Metal Inc., located in Illinois, and their owner, Que Te Park, also known as Andrew Q. Park, made false and misleading advertising claims that the Q-Ray bracelet provided immediate and significant pain relief. The bracelets were advertised on infomercials, online and at trade shows. Q-Ray customers can get more info on the refunds by calling (800) 269-0056 or visiting the FTC’s Q-Ray bracelet website.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: BofA will give customers the chance to accept overdraft fees. Credit: Justin Lane/EPA