The Federal Trade Commission sued the operators of a mobile banking app, alleging that they falsely promised users high interest rates on their accounts and “24/7” access to their funds.
In a complaint filed in federal court, the FTC alleges that Beam Financial Inc. and its founder and CEO Yinan Du, also known as Aaron Du, promised users of their free mobile banking app that they could make transfers out of their accounts and would receive their requested funds within three to five business days. Instead, some users waited weeks or even months to receive their money despite repeated complaints to Beam, while others said they never received their money, according to the complaint.
“Beam Financial promised convenient 24/7 access to savings, but then people had to wait weeks or months to get their money,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Many consumers said Beam’s failure to provide their requested funds caused real financial harm, particularly for those who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the reviewers of the Beam app on the Apple App and Google Play stores complained that they did not receive their requested withdrawals from Beam and had trouble reaching the company either by phone or by email, according to the complaint. For example, one user complained in a review that, “I am still without my $2,900 and Beam doesn’t answer the phone or email. They’ve stolen my money during a pandemic.”
Consumers who did reach the California-based company said Beam blamed delays in providing the requested money on issues with unspecified “banking partners” or “technology partners” and promised the delays were temporary, according to the complaint.
In addition to making it difficult for consumers to access their funds, Beam also failed to give users the high interest rates the company promised, the FTC alleges. Beam repeatedly claimed that users would receive “the industry’s best possible rate” of at least 0.2 percent or 1.0 percent, according to the complaint. In fact, many new users received a much lower interest rate of 0.04 percent and stopped earning any interest after requesting that Beam return their funds.
The FTC alleges that Beam’s misrepresentations violate the FTC Act.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.