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WASHINGTON — A legal settlement between a federal regulator and a company that specializes in issuing credit cards into the subprime market has offered a glimpse into some of the competition CUs face.The Federal Trade Commission announced that the settlement came as a result of a lawsuit the agency brought against CompuCredit Corp. and a wholly owned collections subsidiary, Jefferson Capital Systems, alleging deceptive contact in issuing the cards and abusive practices while collecting debts.As part of the settlement, the company will have to reverse more than $114 million it charged cardholders in fees, the agency said when announcing the settlement.“This settlement is a big win for consumers,” said Lydia B. Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When signing up for a credit card, consumers have the right to know the truth about the amount of credit they are getting and the cost of that credit up front.”According to the FTC’s complaint, CompuCredit marketed credit cards, primarily through direct mail solicitations, under various brand names, including Aspire, Aspire A Mas, FreedomCard, Tribute, Imagine, Majestic, Aspen, Emerge and Fingerhut Credit Advantage.The settlement listed and described several of the company’s products.One was a fee-based credit card with $300 limit. According to the FTC, CompuCredit marketed to consumers with subprime credit ratings a credit card with a purported $300 credit limit, using solicitations that stated certain up-front fees that did not apply. Rather than provide consumers with $300 of available credit, CompuCredit immediately charged consumers as much as $185 in fees that it did not adequately disclose in light of the representations made. These fees left consumers with as little as $115 in available credit.Another was a credit card with “up to $3,250″ limit. As alleged by the FTC, CompuCredit marketed to consumers with slightly higher credit scores its credit card purporting to offer “up to $3,250″ in available credit. CompuCredit failed to disclose, or failed to disclose adequately, the agency complained, that half of the available credit would be withheld for the first 90 days. CompuCredit also failed to disclose, or failed to disclose adequately, that for the first 90 days, the company would monitor consumers’ purchases and might reduce the credit limit based on an undisclosed “behavioral” scoring model.Finally, the agency cited a debt-transfer credit card program. According to the complaint, CompuCredit and Jefferson Capital marketed a credit card to consumers with charged-off debt. CompuCredit and Jefferson Capital represented that the consumers’ old debt balance would be immediately transferred to the card and reported to consumer reporting agencies as paid in full. Consumers who accepted the offer, however, were immediately enrolled in a debt repayment plan and did not receive a credit card until they paid 25% to 50% of their charged-off debt.

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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