• The Washington Post

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One of the largest payment-processing companies helped debt-relief firms impose illegal up-front fees on struggling consumers, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency fined the firm, Meracord, $1.3 million on Thursday.

The enforcement action is part of a broad crackdown on companies that take advantage of people trying to eliminate debt. The bureau is going after not just individual firms but also the infrastructure that lets them withdraw money from consumers’ accounts.

Federal law bars debt-relief firms from demanding payments before settling any debts, in order to protect consumers from spending money on services that may not materialize.

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