Comment for 1026.12 - Special Credit Card Provisions
1. Scope. Sections 1026.12(a) and (b) deal with the issuance and liability rules for credit cards, whether the card is intended for consumer, business, or any other purposes. Sections 1026.12(a) and (b) are exceptions to the general rule that the regulation applies only to consumer credit. (See §§ 1026.1 and 1026.3.)
2. Definition of “accepted credit card”. For purposes of this section, “accepted credit card” means any credit card that a cardholder has requested or applied for and received, or has signed, used, or authorized another person to use to obtain credit. Any credit card issued as a renewal or substitute in accordance with § 1026.12(a) becomes an accepted credit card when received by the cardholder.
12(a) Issuance of Credit Cards
1. Explicit request. A request or application for a card must be explicit. For example, a request for an overdraft plan tied to a checking account does not constitute an application for a credit card with overdraft checking features.
2. Addition of credit features. If the consumer has a non-credit card, the addition of credit features to the card (for example, the granting of overdraft privileges on a checking account when the consumer already has a check guarantee card) constitutes issuance of a credit card.
3. Variance of card from request. The request or application need not correspond exactly to the card that is issued. For example:
i. The name of the card requested may be different when issued.
ii. The card may have features in addition to those reflected in the request or application.
4. Permissible form of request. The request or application may be oral (in response to a telephone solicitation by a card issuer, for example) or written.
5. Time of issuance. A credit card may be issued in response to a request made before any cards are ready for issuance (for example, if a new program is established), even if there is some delay in issuance.
6. Persons to whom cards may be issued. A card issuer may issue a credit card to the person who requests it, and to anyone else for whom that person requests a card and who will be an authorized user on the requester's account. In other words, cards may be sent to consumer A on A's request, and also (on A's request) to consumers B and C, who will be authorized users on A's account. In these circumstances, the following rules apply:
i. The additional cards may be imprinted in either A's name or in the names of B and C.
ii. No liability for unauthorized use (by persons other than B and C), not even the $50, may be imposed on B or C since they are merely users and not cardholders as that term is defined in § 1026.2 and used in § 1026.12(b); of course, liability of up to $50 for unauthorized use of B's and C's cards may be imposed on A.
iii. Whether B and C may be held liable for their own use, or on the account generally, is a matter of state or other applicable law.
7. Issuance of non-credit cards. i. General. Under § 1026.12(a)(1), a credit card cannot be issued except in response to a request or an application. (See comment 2(a)(15)-2 for examples of cards or devices that are and are not credit cards.) A non-credit card may be sent on an unsolicited basis by an issuer that does not propose to connect the card to any credit plan; a credit feature may be added to a previously issued non-credit card only upon the consumer's specific request.
ii. Examples. A purchase-price discount card may be sent on an unsolicited basis by an issuer that does not propose to connect the card to any credit plan. An issuer demonstrates that it proposes to connect the card to a credit plan by, for example, including promotional materials about credit features or account agreements and disclosures required by § 1026.6. The issuer will violate the rule against unsolicited issuance if, for example, at the time the card is sent a credit plan can be accessed by the card or the recipient of the unsolicited card has been preapproved for credit that the recipient can access by contacting the issuer and activating the card.
8. Unsolicited issuance of PINs. A card issuer may issue personal identification numbers (PINs) to existing credit cardholders without a specific request from the cardholders, provided the PINs cannot be used alone to obtain credit. For example, the PINs may be necessary if consumers wish to use their existing credit cards at automated teller machines or at merchant locations with point of sale terminals that require PINs.
1. Renewal. Renewal generally contemplates the regular replacement of existing cards because of, for example, security reasons or new technology or systems. It also includes the re-issuance of cards that have been suspended temporarily, but does not include the opening of a new account after a previous account was closed.
2. Substitution - examples. Substitution encompasses the replacement of one card with another because the underlying account relationship has changed in some way - such as when the card issuer has:
i. Changed its name.
ii. Changed the name of the card.
iii. Changed the credit or other features available on the account. For example, the original card could be used to make purchases and obtain cash advances at teller windows. The substitute card might be usable, in addition, for obtaining cash advances through automated teller machines. (If the substitute card constitutes an access device, as defined in Regulation E, then the Regulation E issuance rules would have to be followed.) The substitution of one card with another on an unsolicited basis is not permissible, however, where in conjunction with the substitution an additional credit card account is opened and the consumer is able to make new purchases or advances under both the original and the new account with the new card. For example, if a retail card issuer replaces its credit card with a combined retailer/bank card, each of the creditors maintains a separate account, and both accounts can be accessed for new transactions by use of the new credit card, the card cannot be provided to a consumer without solicitation.
iv. Substituted a card user's name on the substitute card for the cardholder's name appearing on the original card.
v. Changed the merchant base, provided that the new card is honored by at least one of the persons that honored the original card. However, unless the change in the merchant base is the addition of an affiliate of the existing merchant base, the substitution of a new card for another on an unsolicited basis is not permissible where the account is inactive. A credit card cannot be issued in these circumstances without a request or application. For purposes of § 1026.12(a), an account is inactive if no credit has been extended and if the account has no outstanding balance for the prior 24 months. (See § 1026.11(b)(2).)
3. Substitution - successor card issuer. Substitution also occurs when a successor card issuer replaces the original card issuer (for example, when a new card issuer purchases the accounts of the original issuer and issues its own card to replace the original one). A permissible substitution exists even if the original issuer retains the existing receivables and the new card issuer acquires the right only to future receivables, provided use of the original card is cut off when use of the new card becomes possible.
4. Substitution - non-credit-card plan. A credit card that replaces a retailer's open-end credit plan not involving a credit card is not considered a substitute for the retailer's plan - even if the consumer used the retailer's plan. A credit card cannot be issued in these circumstances without a request or application.
5. One-for-one rule. An accepted card may be replaced by no more than one renewal or substitute card. For example, the card issuer may not replace a credit card permitting purchases and cash advances with two cards, one for the purchases and another for the cash advances.
6. One-for-one rule - exceptions. The regulation does not prohibit the card issuer from:
i. Replacing a debit/credit card with a credit card and another card with only debit functions (or debit functions plus an associated overdraft capability), since the latter card could be issued on an unsolicited basis under Regulation E.
ii. Replacing an accepted card with more than one renewal or substitute card, provided that:
A. No replacement card accesses any account not accessed by the accepted card;
B. For terms and conditions required to be disclosed under § 1026.6, all replacement cards are issued subject to the same terms and conditions, except that a creditor may vary terms for which no change in terms notice is required under § 1026.9(c); and
C. Under the account's terms the consumer's total liability for unauthorized use with respect to the account does not increase.
7. Methods of terminating replaced card. The card issuer need not physically retrieve the original card, provided the old card is voided in some way, for example:
i. The issuer includes with the new card a notification that the existing card is no longer valid and should be destroyed immediately.
ii. The original card contained an expiration date.
iii. The card issuer, in order to preclude use of the card, reprograms computers or issues instructions to authorization centers.
8. Incomplete replacement. If a consumer has duplicate credit cards on the same account (Card A - one type of bank credit card, for example), the card issuer may not replace the duplicate cards with one Card A and one Card B (Card B - another type of bank credit card) unless the consumer requests Card B.
9. Multiple entities. Where multiple entities share responsibilities with respect to a credit card issued by one of them, the entity that issued the card may replace it on an unsolicited basis, if that entity terminates the original card by voiding it in some way, as described in comment 12(a)(2)-7. The other entity or entities may not issue a card on an unsolicited basis in these circumstances.
12(b) Liability of Cardholder for Unauthorized Use
1. Meaning of cardholder. For purposes of this provision, cardholder includes any person (including organizations) to whom a credit card is issued for any purpose, including business. When a corporation is the cardholder, required disclosures should be provided to the corporation (as opposed to an employee user).
2. Imposing liability. A card issuer is not required to impose liability on a cardholder for the unauthorized use of a credit card; if the card issuer does not seek to impose liability, the issuer need not conduct any investigation of the cardholder's claim.
3. Reasonable investigation. If a card issuer seeks to impose liability when a claim of unauthorized use is made by a cardholder, the card issuer must conduct a reasonable investigation of the claim. In conducting its investigation, the card issuer may reasonably request the cardholder's cooperation. The card issuer may not automatically deny a claim based solely on the cardholder's failure or refusal to comply with a particular request, including providing an affidavit or filing a police report; however, if the card issuer otherwise has no knowledge of facts confirming the unauthorized use, the lack of information resulting from the cardholder's failure or refusal to comply with a particular request may lead the card issuer reasonably to terminate the investigation. The procedures involved in investigating claims may differ, but actions such as the following represent steps that a card issuer may take, as appropriate, in conducting a reasonable investigation:
i. Reviewing the types or amounts of purchases made in relation to the cardholder's previous purchasing pattern.
ii. Reviewing where the purchases were delivered in relation to the cardholder's residence or place of business.
iii. Reviewing where the purchases were made in relation to where the cardholder resides or has normally shopped.
iv. Comparing any signature on credit slips for the purchases to the signature of the cardholder or an authorized user in the card issuer's records, including other credit slips.
v. Requesting documentation to assist in the verification of the claim.
vi. Requiring a written, signed statement from the cardholder or authorized user. For example, the creditor may include a signature line on a billing rights form that the cardholder may send in to provide notice of the claim. However, a creditor may not require the cardholder to provide an affidavit or signed statement under penalty of perjury as part of a reasonable investigation.
vii. Requesting a copy of a police report, if one was filed.
viii. Requesting information regarding the cardholder's knowledge of the person who allegedly used the card or of that person's authority to do so.
4. Checks that access a credit card account. The liability provisions for unauthorized use under § 1026.12(b)(1) only apply to transactions involving the use of a credit card, and not if an unauthorized transaction is made using a check accessing the credit card account. However, the billing error provisions in § 1026.13 apply to both of these types of transactions.
12(b)(1)(ii) Limitation on Amount
1. Meaning of authority. Section 1026.12(b)(1)(i) defines unauthorized use in terms of whether the user has actual, implied, or apparent authority. Whether such authority exists must be determined under state or other applicable law.
2. Liability limits - dollar amounts. As a general rule, the cardholder's liability for a series of unauthorized uses cannot exceed either $50 or the value obtained through the unauthorized use before the card issuer is notified, whichever is less.
3. Implied or apparent authority. If a cardholder furnishes a credit card and grants authority to make credit transactions to a person (such as a family member or coworker) who exceeds the authority given, the cardholder is liable for the transaction(s) unless the cardholder has notified the creditor that use of the credit card by that person is no longer authorized.
4. Credit card obtained through robbery or fraud. An unauthorized use includes, but is not limited to, a transaction initiated by a person who has obtained the credit card from the consumer, or otherwise initiated the transaction, through fraud or robbery.
12(b)(2) Conditions of Liability
1. Issuer's option not to comply. A card issuer that chooses not to impose any liability on cardholders for unauthorized use need not comply with the disclosure and identification requirements discussed in § 1026.12(b)(2).
1. Disclosure of liability and means of notifying issuer. The disclosures referred to in § 1026.12(b)(2)(ii) may be given, for example, with the initial disclosures under § 1026.6, on the credit card itself, or on periodic statements. They may be given at any time preceding the unauthorized use of the card.
2. Meaning of “adequate notice.” For purposes of this provision, “adequate notice” means a printed notice to a cardholder that sets forth clearly the pertinent facts so that the cardholder may reasonably be expected to have noticed it and understood its meaning. The notice may be given by any means reasonably assuring receipt by the cardholder.
1. Means of identifying cardholder or user. To fulfill the condition set forth in § 1026.12(b)(2)(iii), the issuer must provide some method whereby the cardholder or the authorized user can be identified. This could include, for example, a signature, photograph, or fingerprint on the card or other biometric means, or electronic or mechanical confirmation.
2. Identification by magnetic strip. Unless a magnetic strip (or similar device not readable without physical aids) must be used in conjunction with a secret code or the like, it would not constitute sufficient means of identification. Sufficient identification also does not exist if a “pool” or group card, issued to a corporation and signed by a corporate agent who will not be a user of the card, is intended to be used by another employee for whom no means of identification is provided.
3. Transactions not involving card. The cardholder may not be held liable under § 1026.12(b) when the card itself (or some other sufficient means of identification of the cardholder) is not presented. Since the issuer has not provided a means to identify the user under these circumstances, the issuer has not fulfilled one of the conditions for imposing liability. For example, when merchandise is ordered by telephone or the Internet by a person without authority to do so, using a credit card account number by itself or with other information that appears on the card (for example, the card expiration date and a 3- or 4-digit cardholder identification number), no liability may be imposed on the cardholder.
12(b)(3) Notification to Card Issuer
1. How notice must be provided. Notice given in a normal business manner - for example, by mail, telephone, or personal visit - is effective even though it is not given to, or does not reach, some particular person within the issuer's organization. Notice also may be effective even though it is not given at the address or phone number disclosed by the card issuer under § 1026.12(b)(2)(ii).
2. Who must provide notice. Notice of loss, theft, or possible unauthorized use need not be initiated by the cardholder. Notice is sufficient so long as it gives the “pertinent information” which would include the name or card number of the cardholder and an indication that unauthorized use has or may have occurred.
3. Relationship to § 1026.13. The liability protections afforded to cardholders in § 1026.12 do not depend upon the cardholder's following the error resolution procedures in § 1026.13. For example, the written notification and time limit requirements of § 1026.13 do not affect the § 1026.12 protections. (See also comment 12(b)-4.)
12(b)(5) Business Use of Credit Cards
1. Agreement for higher liability for business use cards. The card issuer may not rely on § 1026.12(b)(5) if the business is clearly not in a position to provide 10 or more cards to employees (for example, if the business has only 3 employees). On the other hand, the issuer need not monitor the personnel practices of the business to make sure that it has at least 10 employees at all times.
2. Unauthorized use by employee. The protection afforded to an employee against liability for unauthorized use in excess of the limits set in § 1026.12(b) applies only to unauthorized use by someone other than the employee. If the employee uses the card in an unauthorized manner, the regulation sets no restriction on the employee's potential liability for such use.
12(c) Right of Cardholder To Assert Claims or Defenses Against Card Issuer
1. Relationship to § 1026.13. The § 1026.12(c) credit card “holder in due course” provision deals with the consumer's right to assert against the card issuer a claim or defense concerning property or services purchased with a credit card, if the merchant has been unwilling to resolve the dispute. Even though certain merchandise disputes, such as non-delivery of goods, may also constitute “billing errors” under § 1026.13, that section operates independently of § 1026.12(c). The cardholder whose asserted billing error involves undelivered goods may institute the error resolution procedures of § 1026.13; but whether or not the cardholder has done so, the cardholder may assert claims or defenses under § 1026.12(c). Conversely, the consumer may pay a disputed balance and thus have no further right to assert claims and defenses, but still may assert a billing error if notice of that billing error is given in the proper time and manner. An assertion that a particular transaction resulted from unauthorized use of the card could also be both a “defense” and a billing error.
2. Claims and defenses assertible. Section 1026.12(c) merely preserves the consumer's right to assert against the card issuer any claims or defenses that can be asserted against the merchant. It does not determine what claims or defenses are valid as to the merchant; this determination must be made under state or other applicable law.
3. Transactions excluded. Section 1026.12(c) does not apply to the use of a check guarantee card or a debit card in connection with an overdraft credit plan, or to a check guarantee card used in connection with cash-advance checks.
4. Method of calculating the amount of credit outstanding. The amount of the claim or defense that the cardholder may assert shall not exceed the amount of credit outstanding for the disputed transaction at the time the cardholder first notifies the card issuer or the person honoring the credit card of the existence of the claim or defense. However, when a consumer has asserted a claim or defense against a creditor pursuant to § 1026.12(c), the creditor must apply any payment or other credit in a manner that avoids or minimizes any reduction in the amount subject to that claim or defense. Accordingly, to determine the amount of credit outstanding for purposes of this section, payments and other credits must be applied first to amounts other than the disputed transaction.
i. For examples of how to comply with §§ 1026.12 and 1026.53 for credit card accounts under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, see comment 53-3.
ii. For other types of credit card accounts, creditors may, at their option, apply payments consistent with § 1026.53 and comment 53-3. In the alternative, payments and other credits may be applied to: Late charges in the order of entry to the account; then to finance charges in the order of entry to the account; and then to any debits other than the transaction subject to the claim or defense in the order of entry to the account. In these circumstances, if more than one item is included in a single extension of credit, credits are to be distributed pro rata according to prices and applicable taxes.
12(c)(1) General Rule
1. Situations excluded and included. The consumer may assert claims or defenses only when the goods or services are “purchased with the credit card.” This could include mail, the Internet or telephone orders, if the purchase is charged to the credit card account. But it would exclude:
i. Use of a credit card to obtain a cash advance, even if the consumer then uses the money to purchase goods or services. Such a transaction would not involve “property or services purchased with the credit card.”
ii. The purchase of goods or services by use of a check accessing an overdraft account and a credit card used solely for identification of the consumer. (On the other hand, if the credit card is used to make partial payment for the purchase and not merely for identification, the right to assert claims or defenses would apply to credit extended via the credit card, although not to the credit extended on the overdraft line.)
iii. Purchases made by use of a check guarantee card in conjunction with a cash advance check (or by cash advance checks alone). (See comment 12(c)-3.) A cash advance check is a check that, when written, does not draw on an asset account; instead, it is charged entirely to an open-end credit account.
iv. Purchases effected by use of either a check guarantee card or a debit card when used to draw on overdraft credit plans. (See comment 12(c)-3.) The debit card exemption applies whether the card accesses an asset account via point of sale terminals, automated teller machines, or in any other way, and whether the card qualifies as an “access device” under Regulation E or is only a paper based debit card. If a card serves both as an ordinary credit card and also as check guarantee or debit card, a transaction will be subject to this rule on asserting claims and defenses when used as an ordinary credit card, but not when used as a check guarantee or debit card.
12(c)(2) Adverse Credit Reports Prohibited
1. Scope of prohibition. Although an amount in dispute may not be reported as delinquent until the matter is resolved:
i. That amount may be reported as disputed.
ii. Nothing in this provision prohibits the card issuer from undertaking its normal collection activities for the delinquent and undisputed portion of the account.
2. Settlement of dispute. A card issuer may not consider a dispute settled and report an amount disputed as delinquent or begin collection of the disputed amount until it has completed a reasonable investigation of the cardholder's claim. A reasonable investigation requires an independent assessment of the cardholder's claim based on information obtained from both the cardholder and the merchant, if possible. In conducting an investigation, the card issuer may request the cardholder's reasonable cooperation. The card issuer may not automatically consider a dispute settled if the cardholder fails or refuses to comply with a particular request. However, if the card issuer otherwise has no means of obtaining information necessary to resolve the dispute, the lack of information resulting from the cardholder's failure or refusal to comply with a particular request may lead the card issuer reasonably to terminate the investigation.
1. Resolution with merchant. The consumer must have tried to resolve the dispute with the merchant. This does not require any special procedures or correspondence between them, and is a matter for factual determination in each case. The consumer is not required to seek satisfaction from the manufacturer of the goods involved. When the merchant is in bankruptcy proceedings, the consumer is not required to file a claim in those proceedings, and may instead file a claim for the property or service purchased with the credit card with the card issuer directly.
1. Geographic limitation. The question of where a transaction occurs (as in the case of mail, Internet, or telephone orders, for example) is to be determined under state or other applicable law.
1. Merchant honoring card. The exceptions (stated in § 1026.12(c)(3)(ii)) to the amount and geographic limitations in § 1026.12(c)(3)(i)(B) do not apply if the merchant merely honors, or indicates through signs or advertising that it honors, a particular credit card.
12(d) Offsets by Card Issuer Prohibited
1. Holds on accounts. “Freezing” or placing a hold on funds in the cardholder's deposit account is the functional equivalent of an offset and would contravene the prohibition in § 1026.12(d)(1), unless done in the context of one of the exceptions specified in § 1026.12(d)(2). For example, if the terms of a security agreement permitted the card issuer to place a hold on the funds, the hold would not violate the offset prohibition. Similarly, if an order of a bankruptcy court required the card issuer to turn over deposit account funds to the trustee in bankruptcy, the issuer would not violate the regulation by placing a hold on the funds in order to comply with the court order.
2. Funds intended as deposits. If the consumer tenders funds as a deposit (to a checking account, for example), the card issuer may not apply the funds to repay indebtedness on the consumer's credit card account.
3. Types of indebtedness; overdraft accounts. The offset prohibition applies to any indebtedness arising from transactions under a credit card plan, including accrued finance charges and other charges on the account. The prohibition also applies to balances arising from transactions not using the credit card itself but taking place under plans that involve credit cards. For example, if the consumer writes a check that accesses an overdraft line of credit, the resulting indebtedness is subject to the offset prohibition since it is incurred through a credit card plan, even though the consumer did not use an associated check guarantee or debit card.
4. When prohibition applies in case of termination of account. The offset prohibition applies even after the card issuer terminates the cardholder's credit card privileges, if the indebtedness was incurred prior to termination. If the indebtedness was incurred after termination, the prohibition does not apply.
1. Security interest - limitations. In order to qualify for the exception stated in § 1026.12(d)(2), a security interest must be affirmatively agreed to by the consumer and must be disclosed in the issuer's account-opening disclosures under § 1026.6. The security interest must not be the functional equivalent of a right of offset; as a result, routinely including in agreements contract language indicating that consumers are giving a security interest in any deposit accounts maintained with the issuer does not result in a security interest that falls within the exception in § 1026.12(d)(2). For a security interest to qualify for the exception under § 1026.12(d)(2) the following conditions must be met:
i. The consumer must be aware that granting a security interest is a condition for the credit card account (or for more favorable account terms) and must specifically intend to grant a security interest in a deposit account. Indicia of the consumer's awareness and intent include at least one of the following (or a substantially similar procedure that evidences the consumer's awareness and intent):
A. Separate signature or initials on the agreement indicating that a security interest is being given.
B. Placement of the security agreement on a separate page, or otherwise separating the security interest provisions from other contract and disclosure provisions.
C. Reference to a specific amount of deposited funds or to a specific deposit account number.
ii. The security interest must be obtainable and enforceable by creditors generally. If other creditors could not obtain a security interest in the consumer's deposit accounts to the same extent as the card issuer, the security interest is prohibited by § 1026.12(d)(2).
2. Security interest - after-acquired property. As used in § 1026.12(d)(2), the term “security interest” does not exclude (as it does for other Regulation Z purposes) interests in after-acquired property. Thus, a consensual security interest in deposit-account funds, including funds deposited after the granting of the security interest would constitute a permissible exception to the prohibition on offsets.
3. Court order. If the card issuer obtains a judgment against the cardholder, and if state and other applicable law and the terms of the judgment do not so prohibit, the card issuer may offset the indebtedness against the cardholder's deposit account.
1. Automatic payment plans - scope of exception. With regard to automatic debit plans under § 1026.12(d)(3), the following rules apply:
i. The cardholder's authorization must be in writing and signed or initialed by the cardholder.
ii. The authorizing language need not appear directly above or next to the cardholder's signature or initials, provided it appears on the same document and that it clearly spells out the terms of the automatic debit plan.
iii. If the cardholder has the option to accept or reject the automatic debit feature (such option may be required under section 913 of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act), the fact that the option exists should be clearly indicated.
2. Automatic payment plans - additional exceptions. The following practices are not prohibited by § 1026.12(d)(1):
i. Automatically deducting charges for participation in a program of banking services (one aspect of which may be a credit card plan).
ii. Debiting the cardholder's deposit account on the cardholder's specific request rather than on an automatic periodic basis (for example, a cardholder might check a box on the credit card bill stub, requesting the issuer to debit the cardholder's account to pay that bill).
12(e) Prompt Notification of Returns and Crediting of Refunds
1. Normal channels. The term normal channels refers to any network or interchange system used for the processing of the original charge slips (or equivalent information concerning the transaction).
1. Crediting account. The card issuer need not actually post the refund to the consumer's account within three business days after receiving the credit statement, provided that it credits the account as of a date within that time period.