June 22, 2011, 4:30 PM

Consumer group seeks more protection against fraudulent mobile charges

Consumers Union wants the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to step up to the plate.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

The advocacy organization wants uniform consumer protection for mobile payments.

Consumers require more protection from fraudulent mobile payments, says Consumers Union, the consumer advocacy organization behind Consumer Reports magazine, in a report titled “Mobile Pay or Mobile Mess: Closing The Gap Between Mobile Payment Systems And Consumer Protections.”

Consumers Union includes PayPal, mobile point-of-sale company Square Inc., Apple Inc.’s iTunes, Google Wallet and Facebook among the services offering some form of mobile payment capability.

In the report, Consumers Union calls for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created last year in the wake of the banking crisis and charged with making it easier for consumers to understand financial services offerings, to take the lead role at the federal level to protect consumers from fraudulent mobile transactions.

“Currently, consumers are left to figure out on their own what types of protections might be provided in the event they discover unauthorized use or an error that resulted from a mobile payment transaction,” Michelle Jun, Consumer Union senior attorney, writes. “Consumers are unlikely to know what to do, who to call or what rights they have after discovering unauthorized activity or other errors on their statements or receipts.”

Consumers Union wants the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state agencies to extend to mobile payment transactions  the $50 limit on consumer responsibility for a fraudulent credit card purchase, , even though a credit card may not be involved in the mobile transaction.

Consumers also should be able to dispute transactions made via a mobile device as they do with credit cards, the organization says. “Consumers need consistent and guaranteed protections regardless of the payment methods or product used,” Jun says.

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