$34 Million Settlement Received for Consumers Victimized by Medical Credit Cards

December 15, 2013 Posted by kingcade

GE Capital has agreed to pay up to $34 million to resolve allegations that it misled consumers about the terms for credit cards offered by doctors to pay for medical procedures. This is the first settlement of its kind involving medical credit cards, which doctors and dentists offer to patients to finance expensive treatments, typically not covered by insurance. While these medical credit cards resemble other credit cards, there is a critical difference: they are marketed by caregivers to patients, often at vulnerable times, such as when those patients are in pain or when their providers have recommended care they cannot afford or insurance will not pay for.

The recent settlement comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scrutinizing deferred interest financing plans, under which borrowers pay no interest for a set period of time, but are later hit with higher interest rates, oftentimes much higher than traditional credit cards. Credit card issuers have come under fire over disclosures for marketing medical credit cards, which often come with initial interest rates of 0% that later jump to double-digit rates if the amount owed is not paid off in full before the promotional period ends. Deferred interest cards, increasingly common in medical offices, are also offered widely by retailers with deferred financing terms for big purchases.

CareCredit, a division of GE Capital, is the largest issuer of medical credit cards with around four million cardholders and 175,000 participating medical offices. The CFPB said CareCredit placed borrowers in a financing plan without ensuring that the medical office staff selling the plan gave a thorough explanation as to the terms and conditions of these cards. The bureau said many consumers believed they were not being charged interest, when they were actually being levied nearly 27% interest after an initial interest-free period.

The settlement has resulted in GE Capital having to notify more than 1.2 million consumers that they can file a reimbursement claim for interest charges and fees. In addition, CareCredit must contact new consumers directly within 72 hours of taking out a credit card loan to explain the terms and conditions to them.

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