Collection agencies EGS Financial Care (formerly NCO Financial Systems), Systems and Services Technologies and Transworld Systems agreed Monday to pay a total of $493,670 in civil penalties while offering refunds to consumers in North Carolina to resolve allegations that they committed unfair practices.

The North Carolina Department of Insurance began investigating the collection agencies after it received a complaint from a consumer stating that Transworld Systems drafted $12 from her bank account on three separate occasions, in addition to her $50 monthly bill payment. The department discovered that the collection agencies charged a flat convenience fee for each payment processed over the telephone and online through their computer collection systems.

The settlement calls for the three companies to refund convenience fees charged to consumers between Aug. 1, 2010 and March 31, 2014. The companies also have agreed to permanently halt collection of convenience fees or any other fees from North Carolina consumers.

The agencies did not admit wrongdoing and deny they violated state law. They agreed to the settlement rather than face an administrative hearing.

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