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Rowe Issues Notice Of Intent To Sue Chase Bank, Chase Manhattan Mortgage, And Trilegiant
July 12, 2005
Attorney General Steven Rowe today announced that he has issued a notice of intent to sue Trilegiant Corporation, Chase Bank USA, N.A., and Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation for violating the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act in connection with their marketing of membership clubs to Maine residents. Maine law requires that the notices be sent at least ten days prior to filing suit seeking an injunction in court.
The Attorney General alleges that the Chase companies and Trilegiant misled Maine consumers into signing up for memberships in so-called "discount buying clubs" without the consumers' knowledge or consent. Chase Bank checks were mailed to customers along with notices indicating that the checks were rewards to valued customers. But cashing the checks enrolled the customers in discount buying clubs, and their credit card accounts were charged for recurring annual club dues ranging from $44.99 to $99.99. Rowe alleges that the disclosures accompanying the checks were insufficient to inform consumers that they were agreeing to have their accounts charged. "We have heard from more than 100 Maine residents who did not consent to charges on their Chase credit cards or mortgage balances for membership in these clubs. After learning they had been charged membership dues, many residents had difficulty canceling and obtaining refunds," said Rowe.
Rowe asked Mainers to carefully check their credit card and mortgage statements and to question any unfamiliar charges. The clubs have various names including Travel Advantage, Shoppers Advantage, Complete Home and Auto Vantage Gold. They purport to offer consumers discounts and savings on products and services. "We must all be vigilant about checking our statements. Consumer law enforcement is driven by consumer complaints, and consumers can't complain unless they notice they've been taken," said Rowe.
The California Attorney General also today filed suit against the companies for similar conduct in that state. Trilegiant is a Delaware Corporation operating in Connecticut. Chase Bank USA, N. A. is a national bank located in Newark, Delaware; and Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation is a New Jersey Corporation.
In 2001, Rowe joined the Federal Trade Commission and many other states in a settlement of suits against another discount buying club called Triad. More information on that settlement may be obtained at http://www.maine.gov/ag/pressreleasepopup.php?pressid=62
LINDA CONTI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, 207-626-8591