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FTC, Dillard’s Duel Over Truth in Lending

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission Wednesday charged Dillard Department Stores Inc. with violating the Truth in Lending Act by placing too many burdens on customers whose store cards are used without permission.<BR><BR>The charge drew an angry...

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission Wednesday charged Dillard Department Stores Inc. with violating the Truth in Lending Act by placing too many burdens on customers whose store cards are used without permission.

The charge drew an angry response from Dillard’s.

The agency cited Dillard’s, based in Little Rock, Ark., for illegally requiring cardholders to file notarized affidavits and reports with police or postal inspectors when their Dillard’s cards are wrongfully used.

The FTC also took issue with the chain requiring cardholders to appear at a Dillard’s store to answer questions about the charges and agree to testify against the unauthorized user if the user is caught.

According to the FTC, if customers didn’t fulfill these requirements, Dillard’s would make them responsible for paying the unauthorized charges. If the charges weren’t paid, Dillard’s would then count them as delinquent, and share the information with credit bureaus.

James I. Freeman, Dillard’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, accused the FTC of “proposing an entirely new interpretation of the law, which it doesn’t have authority to do.

“The credit card industry has customarily been asking customers to complete affidavits, notarize them and file police reports when credit cards are lost or stolen — with no indication from the FTC or the [Federal Reserve] that these procedures are questionable,” he said. The National Retail Federation said Dillard’s procedure is common practice in retailing.

Under the law, companies may not put unreasonable burdens on cardholders who make such claims, but they can conduct reasonable investigations. Also, cardholders are only liable for the first $50 of unauthorized card use.

Should the FTC prevail it said it would seek an unspecified amount of unauthorized claim charges collected by Dillard’s from cardholders who didn’t fulfill the retailer’s guidelines.

Dillard’s must respond to the charge by Nov. 22.

— Fairchild News Service