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Supreme Court Rules on Credit Card Fees

April 21, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court ruled in favor of banks and credit card companies Wednesday in a dispute over how credit companies must disclose fees for consumers who overrun their credit limits.

The high court unanimously said the financial companies can list over-limit fees separately on a consumer’s credit statement, on top of whatever finance charges the consumer ran up that month.

Household Credit Services Inc. and MBNA Bank, a major issuer of credit cards, had asked the court to overturn a lower court ruling in favor of a credit card customer assessed separate $29 fees every time she went over her $2,000 monthly credit limit.

At the Supreme Court, the dispute was not over whether the fees themselves were legitimate, but rather over whether consumers’ statements list the charges correctly.

MBNA customer Sharon Pfennig had complained that the over-limit charges were really a cost of using the card, and should have been listed as a finance charge. She sued under the Truth in Lending Act, a 1968 law meant to give consumers more information about the cost of borrowing.

The case is Household Credit Services v. Pfennig, 02-857.

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