If I were not an educated, reasonably articulate, pushy asshole who is willing to get on the phone and browbeat these vicious leeches, this could easily have been me at various points in my life, including a credit crunch situation we had not all that long ago:
- In a six-year period, beginning in 1997, [Ruth] Owens paid $3,492 on her $1,895 debt with added fees and finance charges. And she was still left with a $5,564 balance owed on the account.
That incensed Cleveland Municipal Judge Robert Triozzi, who last week ruled against Discover Card in a suit it filed in August 2003 against Owens for breach of contract.
Triozzi not only wiped Owens’ account clean, he also issued a scathing rebuke to Discover Card.
“This court is all too aware of the widespread financial exploitation of the urban poor by overbearing credit-card companies,” Triozzi wrote in his decision.
“Defendant has clearly been the victim of plaintiff’s unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practice.”
Owens, representing herself, told the judge in a handwritten response to the suit that she was essentially in dire straits.
“I am on Social Security Disability,” she wrote.
“After paying my monthly utilities, there is no money left except a little food money and sometimes it isn’t enough. If my situation was different, I would pay. I just don’t have it. I’m sorry.”
….Triozzi noted in his ruling that if Owens simply stopped paying altogether in May 1997, her account would have been closed and Discover would have probably negotiated a settlement for much less than the amount due.
“While clearly placing her on the moral high road, the same highway unfortunately was her road to financial ruin,” Triozzi wrote.
Triozzi stated that some of the responsibility rested with Owens, that no one forced her to open the account or to use the card. But, he added, the credit card company also bears some responsibility and that it was “unreasonable and unjust” to keep her account open and active long after it was obvious that she wasn’t able to pay.
In some instances, some fees caused others to kick in. When Owens made a payment that was less than the minimum due, for example, she incurred a late payment fee, putting her balance over her credit limit. As result she was charged additional over-limit fees of $1,518 during the six-year period.
Chi Chi Wu, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, said from his Boston office that this treatment of credit card users is a “huge systemic problem.”
Wu said that Owens showed up for her court appearance, advice others in her predicament should take. [Cleveland.com]
So instead of closing this woman’s account, because she paid just enough to keep it open, they kept piling up the charges and fees and interest, one on top of the other, in a usurious manner long after it was clear she couldn’t keep up and would NEVER get caught up. Thank God this judge could see the outrageous injustice of this particular case, but as attorney Wu says, this is a “huge systemic problem.”
I hope these wretched intestinal parasites feel some slight twinge of shame somewhere in the vicinity of where others have a conscience, but I doubt it.