Some 30 million people across the nation are receiving notices that they may be eligible for $25 or more from the settlement of a class action suit over foreign currency conversions on credit and debit cards.
The case alleged that card companies overcharged when converting foreign transactions into dollars and didn't disclose all fees. It looked at currency conversion fees — often up to 3 percent of the transaction value — on credit card and debit card as well as cards used to tap automated teller machines.
People who held cards that were branded by Visa, MasterCard or Diners Club and issued by major American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Co. or Citigroup Inc., are part of the class.
A $336 million settlement in the case, which had been brought in 2001, was announced in July 2006 and affirmed by a court in November 2006.
The defendants denied any wrongdoing, but said they settled to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation.
Ruthanne Gordon, an attorney with Berger & Montague PC, a Philadelphia law firm that handled the case, said she expects millions of people to respond to the mailing.
Lawyer David Langer said that the firm has created a Web site at http://www.ccfsettlement.com with details of who is eligible for a payment and how to file a claim. There also is a toll-free number of 800-945-9890, but he warned that it has been experiencing a "huge volume" of calls.
Consumers will have three refund options to choose from, Gordon said.
The easiest is a $25 refund, recommended for those with limited travel outside of the United States between Feb. 1, 1996, and Nov. 8, 2006. Others can seek larger refunds by providing estimates of their foreign spending, either based on typical spending or annual estimates.
The case was brought by Berger & Montague as well as the firm of Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins in New York; that firm has since reorganized into Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins LLP.
A separate case against American Express Co., headquartered in New York, is still pending.