Thousands of consumers scammed by Nevada-based payment processor Automated Electronic Checking (AEC) Inc. will get some of their money back as a result of a lawsuit and settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission.

Using a relatively new payment method called “remotely created payment orders” to give merchants access to consumer bank accounts, AEC debited many consumers who had never heard of AEC or its client merchants, some of whom included online discount shopping clubs and payday loan sites. 

Under the settlement, AEC and two of its principals were banned in March from processing electronic payments - resolving charges that they debited, or tried to debit, millions of dollars from tens of thousands of consumers’ bank accounts without their consent. 

According to the FTC’s complaint, AEC knew, or should have known, that some of its client merchants got consumers’ financial account information through deceptive means and lacked consumers’ authorization to debit their accounts.

The settlement against AEC and principals John P. Lawless and Kenneth Mark Turville, required it to return the money earned from processing for EdebitPay and Platinum. The FTC is mailing 34,859 refund checks to consumers whose bank accounts were debited, allegedly without their consent, by the company. A total of more than $870,000 will be returned to consumers.

The average amount of redress is an estimated $25 and is based on the amount each person lost. Those who receive the checks from the FTC’s refund administrator should cash them within 60 days of the mailing date.   

Payment processors enable merchants to obtain customer payments for products and services via electronic banking. Processors provide a link between merchants and consumers’ banks. They are compensated by receiving a fee for each consumer transaction that they process.

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