(The following is a reformatted version of a press release
issued by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and received via
electronic mail. The release was confirmed by the sender.)
November 1, 2012
CAPITAL ONE BANK SETTLES ADVERTISING CLAIM WITH VERMONT ATTORNEY
Capital One Bank has agreed to settle claims by the Vermont
Attorney General’s Office that it failed to disclose important
information on “0% interest” solicitations sent to Vermont
businesses. The settlement requires Capital One to change its
solicitations and pay the State $150,000 in investigative costs.
Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell said, “No matter how
big they are, companies have an obligation to provide accurate
information when they market their services.”
Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., headquartered in McLean, Virginia,
has for some time been sending direct-mail solicitations to
Vermont businesses, offering the use of an “access check” to
borrow up to a certain amount of money--for example, $5,000--at
0% interest for 12 months. However, businesses that use an
access check are considered to have a continuing balance on
their credit card account until the check amount is paid back,
even if all other purchases are paid in full by the monthly due
date. As a result, interest accrues immediately on all new
purchases on the account, and businesses that normally pay off
all of their new purchases each month end up paying interest on
those purchases. According to the Attorney General, this
practice was not disclosed by Capital One, violating the Vermont
Consumer Protection Act.
Under the settlement, for one year, Capital One will include
this disclosure on the front of its access check offers: “Please
read … If you accept this offer, you will pay interest on all
purchases made with your credit card until your entire balance
is paid off. See Special Notice on the back of this offer.” For
an additional four years, Capital One is required to include a
clear and conspicuous front-page disclosure to the same effect;
and beyond that, the State retains its right to take legal
action if warranted.
In addition to the disclosures and the payment to the State,
Capital One is required, within 30 days of signing the
settlement, to reimburse any Vermont business that paid interest
on new purchases while a 0% access check balance was pending
that it would not have paid absent that balance. Any such
refunds that cannot be returned to a business will be sent to
the State to be treated as unclaimed property.
Individual consumers should be aware that “0% interest” offers
may similarly result in interest being assessed upon purchase.
However, the Attorney General’s settlement addresses only
solicitations to businesses, because federal law “preempts”
states from enforcing their laws with respect to credit card
solicitations to individuals.
For more information on the settlement, call the Attorney
General’s Office at (802) 828-5507.
Assistant Attorney General
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