Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of an agreement against a Georgia credit card bank for incorrectly assessing late fee charges on 621 Oregon consumers' JC Penney credit cards. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Marion County Circuit Court is Monogram Credit Card Bank of Georgia, a subsidiary of General Electric Capital Corporation (GECC). The assurance admits no law violation.
"This is good wake-up case for Oregon consumers who don't bother to carefully read their credit card statements," Myers said. "Not only did the company take too long to correct the billing errors but many consumers failed to catch the billing error in the first place."
Former GECC employees, who worked as customer service representatives in the Portland office, first alerted Department of Justice investigators to the billing problem. That office closed in July 2001. According to the former employees, the late fee charges were incorrectly charged to JC Penney credit cards beginning in October 2000 in connection with the conversion of the company's credit card account processing system to another system.
Investigators found that inadvertently, the new billing system sometimes failed to recognize a credit when a JC Penney customer returned merchandise then made another purchase in the same billing period, thereby, erroneously triggering a late fee charge.
Under the Assurance, the company agrees to correct any billing charges that are inconsistent with the terms of the credit card agreements. If they have not already done so, the company will within the next 60 days, credit JC Penney cardholders the amount of any inappropriately assessed late fee charges. If the cardholder has no current balance, the company will send them checks for the amount of the late charges and related finance charges.
Monogram has provided Justice with a list of the victims and the amount paid to each. The company also has been retracting and updating any negative information previously reported to credit reporting agencies related to these late fees.
GECC paid Justice $35,000 for its Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Oregonians wanting more information about consumer protection in Oregon may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.