I recently received an unexpected letter in the mail from a law firm. Curiously, I opened the envelope, and read the title of the enclosed letter:
Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement and hearing to Chase Credit Cardholders
I was instantly reminded of the terror that I felt back in June of 2009 when we received five identical envelopes in the mail from Chase; one for each of the credit card accounts we had with them. The letter inside stated that terms of our accounts were being changed, and the minimum payment percentage was being increased. Our monthly payment was going to more than double, making it impossible for us to meet all our monthly financial commitments.
One extremely stressful week later, we were enrolled in a debt management plan with fingers crossed that we made the right choice.
I had always thought Chase’s actions were unfair, but apparently someone thought they were worth legal action. According to the the letter in my hands, although Chase admitted no wrong doing, they were agreeing to settle the lawsuit for $100 million dollars.
To me, $100,000,000 is a rather large number that screams “I’m guilty.”
My first reaction was a sly smile, a feeling of justification, and a fist pump into the air. But the more I thought about it, I wondered if I really should be enjoying these feelings of glee. While the policy change had shoved us to the edge of financial ruin, it was just the final nail in the coffin of our already spiraling out of control finances. It forced us down the road of actually doing something about our debt, and our financial irresponsibility.
This past weekend I attended the Financial Blogger Conference in Denver. Chase happened to be a sponsor, and a representative from Chase was given the opportunity to speak. I don’t remember the gentleman’s name, but part of his presentation spoke to trends in the financial industry, and how Chase was providing products catered to what their customers demanded. One of the things mentioned was how people don’t like surprises. The speaker went on to describe products that Chase was now offering that would help take surprises out of a person’s financial life.
My entire being was rattled with anticipation for a Q & A section after his speech was over. I was begging the universe to let me ask him his opinion on what his customers thought about getting a letter in the mail telling them their monthly payment was going to be raised by 150% without being given a single solitary reason other than, “because we can.” To my dismay, there was no Q & A session.
The settlement proposal states that if accepted, $25 million will go to the lawyers. The remainder will be split up between the rest of the plaintiffs included in the lawsuit. Each plaintiff will receive a minimum of a $25 payment. Most (but not all) will receive an additional payment based upon a number of factors. I don’t know how much, if any, I will receive in addition to the base payment.
Chase didn’t make me ring up thousands of dollars of credit card debt. I did that all on my own. Nor do I blame them for my financial crisis. It was just a matter of time. But that doesn’t excuse their behavior. What they did was just flat out screw their customers. They enticed people to transfer balances to their Chase accounts with a low interest rate, then rolled out a new policy in order to milk as much money out of their new customers as quickly as possible.
Chase isn’t admitting any wrong doing, but is shelling out $100,000,000.
I do admit to having some sense of gratitude for Chase putting the wheels in motion that finally made us confront our financial irresponsibility.
But I’ll wait happily by the mailbox for my settlement check.
Are you part of the class action lawsuit? How would this make YOU feel?