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There are usually several ways you can pay a bill to a company or government agency. Often the most expensive is the pay-by-phone option, a fact many consumers overlook, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) noted today in a warning to companies.

“The Bureau is warning companies about tricking consumers into more expensive fees when they pay bills by phone,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are concerned that companies are misleading consumers about pay-by-phone fees or keeping them in the dark about much cheaper or no-cost payment options.”

Customers who choose the pay-by-phone option may find that fees differ depending on what method of payment they choose, such as payment by electronic check, debit card, or credit card.

Spectrum's bill payment page

Consumers may also be charged an additional fee to expedite phone payments, though many companies offer consumers no-fee or lower-fee pay-by-phone options that post after a delay.

The CFPB said it does not mandate any particular way to inform consumers about pay-by-phone options and fees. However, the Bureau expects companies to review their practices for potential risks of violating consumer financial laws and to address any issues. 

The CFPB recommends that financial institutions take steps to ensure that they are following laws related to pay-by-phone fees. Companies should review state and federal laws to confirm they can charge such fees, and review their policies and procedures. Companies should also review consumer complaints about fees that are charged.

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