Sunday, January 30, 2011

Supreme Court rules on credit card rate hikes, retaliation lawsuits

The Supreme Court in separate rulings Monday gave employees more leeway in bringing illegal retaliation cases against employers and also provided credit card companies with protection from lawsuits based on rate increases.

At issue in the credit card case, known as Chase Bank v. McCoy, is an outdated federal regulation regarding whether credit card companies needed to inform customers of rate increases because of delinquency or default.

In 2009, the Federal Reserve Board implemented regulations specifying that credit card companies must provide 45 days notice for rate increases resulting from delinquency or default, but the rules weren’t that specific when James McCoy filed suit in 2006.

Mr. McCoy alleged in his lawsuit that Chase Bank illegally raised his rates without notifying him after he defaulted on his payments.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Mr. McCoy in a 20-page decision, saying that Chase’s notice of terms specifying the possibility of a rate increase in case of a default met the legal requirements at the time.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in an opinion for the court that federal regulations “did not require Chase to provide McCoy with a change-in-terms notice before it implemented the agreement term allowing it to raise his interest rate following delinquency or default.”

As a result, the court ruled Mr. McCoy had no basis to bring a lawsuit against Chase.

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