Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against American Express Regarding Improper Increases in Customer Credit Card Interest Rates

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Lawsuit claims that the decision of American Express to stop tying credit card interest rates to the Prime Rate breached the company's credit card agreements and violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Atlanta law firm Webb, Klase & Lemond, LLC has filed a class action lawsuit against American Express alleging that the company unilaterally increased consumer interest rates in violation of the applicable credit card agreements. The complaint asserts that these increases were contrary to American Express' long-standing practice of tying its rates on many credit card accounts to the Prime Rate, the interest rate charged by banks to their most creditworthy customers. This commitment was established in the company's form contracts and through years of consistent dealings with customers according to the suit. The complaint states that American Express raised rates even for consumers who have always maintained their good standing by satisfying all account requirements, such as making required payments and not exceeding credit limits. Furthermore, the plaintiff claims American Express has taken such action even against those whose credit scores and general creditworthiness have not declined. The suit requests that customers be refunded all excessive interest charges in addition to several other forms of relief. The case, styled Meeks v. American Express Centurion Bank, Inc., is pending in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia and has been assigned Case Number 2010CV190851.

According to the suit, for several years Mr. Meeks was charged a "fixed-variable" interest rate equal to the Prime Rate plus a "marginal rate" of 2.99 percent. In this manner, the plaintiff claims the company's interest rates tracked the Prime Rate, moving up when the Prime Rate climbed and down when the Prime Rate fell. The complaint asserts that the company unilaterally ended this practice in late 2008 and throughout 2009 by periodically increasing customers' marginal rates such that - even as the Prime Rate fell to historic lows - customers suffered higher and higher interest charges. For example, Mr. Meeks' marginal rate went from 2.99 percent to 11.99 percent and thus, even with the Prime Rate at 3.25 percent, American Express charged him interest of over 15 percent, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Meeks claims the improper and excessive rate hikes have cost him hundreds of dollars and more than doubled his monthly payments.

The lawsuit asserts that American Express imposed these higher rates even on existing customer balances. In addition, the suit alleges that American Express's offer that customers could reject this interest rate increase by freezing or closing their credit card accounts is inadequate because, as the company is well aware, most consumers rely on their credit card accounts and closing any credit line has a negative impact on a consumer's credit score. As a result, the complaint contends that customers have been forced to accept American Express' unilateral rate increases.

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this press release, please contact Webb, Klase & Lemond by e-mail at contact(at)webbllc(dot)com or by calling (770) 444-9325.


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