Chase Bank USA, N.A. v. McCoy, 09–329.

Decision Date24 January 2011
Docket NumberNo. 09–329.,09–329.
Citation131 S.Ct. 871,562 U.S. 195,178 L.Ed.2d 716
Parties CHASE BANK USA, N.A., Petitioner, v. James A. McCOY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Seth P. Waxman, Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Joseph R. Palmore, for U.S. as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court, supporting petitioner.

Gregory A. Beck, Washington, DC, for respondent.

Christopher R. Lipsett, Noah A. Levine, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, New York, NY, Seth P. Waxman, Counsel of Record, Daniel S. Volchok, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Barry L. Kramer, Los Angeles, CA, Gregory A. Beck, Counsel of Record, Deepak Gupta, Allison M. Zieve, Washington, DC, for respondent.

Justice SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

As applicable to this case, Regulation Z—promulgated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) pursuant to its authority under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 82 Stat. 146, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. —requires that issuers of credit cards provide cardholders with an "[i]nitial disclosure statement" specifying, inter alia, "each periodic rate" associated with the account. 12 CFR § 226.6(a)(2) (2008). The regulation also imposes "[s]ubsequent disclosure requirements," including notice to cardholders "[w]henever any term required to be disclosed under § 226.6 is changed." § 226.9(c)(1). This case presents the question whether Regulation Z requires an issuer to notify a cardholder of an interest-rate increase instituted pursuant to a provision of the cardholder agreement giving the issuer discretion to increase the rate, up to a stated maximum, in the event of the cardholder's delinquency or default. We conclude that the version of Regulation Z applicable in this case does not require such notice.


Congress passed TILA to promote consumers' "informed use of credit" by requiring "meaningful disclosure of credit terms," 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a), and granted the Board the authority to issue regulations to achieve TILA's purposes, § 1604(a). Pursuant to this authority, the Board promulgated Regulation Z, which requires credit card issuers to disclose certain information to consumers.1 Two provisions of Regulation Z are at issue in this case. The first, 12 CFR § 226.6, explains what information credit card issuers are obliged to provide to cardholders in the "[i]nitial disclosure statement," including "each periodic rate that may be used to compute the finance charge." § 226.6(a)(2). The second, § 226.9, imposes upon issuers certain "[s]ubsequent disclosure requirements," including a requirement to provide notice "[w]henever any term required to be disclosed under § 226.6 is changed." § 226.9(c)(1). As a general matter, notice of a change in terms has to be provided 15 days in advance of the effective date of the change. Ibid. When "a periodic rate or other finance charge is increased because of the consumer's delinquency or default," however, notice only need be given "before the effective date of the change." Ibid. Regulation Z also explains that no notice is required under § 226.9 when the change in terms "results from ... the consumer's default or delinquency (other than an increase in the periodic rate or other finance charge)." § 226.9(c)(2).

The official interpretation of Regulation Z (Official Staff Commentary or Commentary) promulgated by the Board explains these requirements further: Section 226.9(c)(1)'s notice-of-change requirement does not apply " if the specific change is set forth initially, such as ... an increase that occurs when the consumer has been under an agreement to maintain a certain balance in a savings account in order to keep a particular rate and the account balance falls below the specified minimum." 12 CFR pt. 226, Supp. I, Comment 9(c)–1, p. 506 (2008) (hereinafter Comment 9(c)–1). On the other hand, the Commentary explains, "notice must be given if the contract allows the creditor to increase the rate at its discretion but does not include specific terms for an increase (for example, when an increase may occur under the creditor's contract reservation right to increase the periodic rate)." Ibid. As to the timing requirements, the Commentary states: "[A] notice of change in terms is required, but it may be mailed or delivered as late as the effective date of the change ... [i]f there is an increased periodic rate or any other finance charge attributable to the consumer's delinquency or default." Id., Comment 9(c)(1)–3, at 507 (hereinafter Comment 9(c)(1)–3).

At least as early as 2004, the Board began considering revisions to Regulation Z. The new regulations the Board eventually issued do not apply to the present case, but the details of their promulgation provides useful background in considering the parties' arguments with respect to the version of Regulation Z we address here. In 2004, the Board issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking announcing its intent to consider revisions. 69 Fed.Reg. 70925 (2004). In so doing, the Board described how it understood the notice requirements to function at that time:

"[A]dvance notice is not required in all cases. For example, if the interest rate or other finance charge increases due to a consumer's default or delinquency, notice is required, but need not be given in advance. 12 CFR 226.9(c)(1) ; comment 9(c)(1)–3. And no change-in-terms notice is required if the creditor specifies in advance the circumstances under which an increase to the finance charge or an annual fee will occur. Comment 9(c)–1. For example, some credit card account agreements permit the card issuer to increase the interest rate if the consumer pays late.... Under Regulation Z, because the circumstances are specified in advance in the account agreement, the creditor need not provide a change-in-terms notice 15 days in advance of the increase; the new rate will appear on the periodic statement for the cycle in which the increase occurs." Id., at 70931–70932.

The Board asked for public comment on whether these "existing disclosure rules" were "adequate to enable consumers to make timely decisions about how to manage their accounts." Id., at 70932.

Subsequently, in 2007, the Board published proposed amendments to Regulation Z and the Commentary. 72 Fed.Reg. 32948. One amendment would have required 45 days' advance written notice when "(i) [a] rate is increased due to the consumer's delinquency or default; or (ii)[a] rate is increased as a penalty for one or more events specified in the account agreement, such as making a late payment or obtaining an extension of credit that exceeds the credit limit." Id., at 33058 (proposed 12 CFR § 226.9(g) ). The Board explained that, under the amendments, "creditors would no longer be permitted to provide for the immediate application of penalty pricing upon the occurrence of certain events specified in the contract." 72 Fed.Reg. 33012.

In January 2009, the Board promulgated a final rule implementing many of the proposed changes, scheduled to be effective July 1, 2010. 74 Fed.Reg. 5244. Most saliently, the Board included a new provision, § 226.9(g), which requires 45 days' advance notice of increases in rates due to cardholder delinquency or default, or as a penalty, including penalties for "events specified in the account agreement, such as making a late payment ... ." 12 CFR § 226.9(g)(1)(2010). In May 2009, Congress enacted the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (Credit CARD Act or Act), 123 Stat. 1734. The Act amended TILA, in relevant part, to require 45 days' advance notice of most increases in credit card annual percentage rates. 15 U.S.C. § 1637(i) (2006 ed., Supp. IV). Because the Credit CARD Act's notice requirements with respect to interest-rate increases largely mirror the requirements in the new version of the regulation, the Board changed the effective date of those requirements to August 20, 2009, to coincide with the statutory schedule. See 74 Fed.Reg. 36077–36079. The transactions giving rise to the dispute at issue in this case, however, arose prior to enactment of the Act and the promulgation of the new regulatory provisions.


Respondent James A. McCoy brought this action in the Superior Court of Orange County, California on behalf of himself and others similarly situated against petitioner Chase Bank USA, N. A.; Chase removed the action to the United States District Court for the Central District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. At the time of the transactions at issue, McCoy was the holder of a credit card issued by Chase. The cardholder agreement between the parties (Agreement) provides, in relevant part, that McCoy is eligible for "Preferred rates," but that to keep such rates he has to meet certain conditions, including making "at least the required minimum payments when due on [his] Account and on all other loans or accounts with [Chase] and [his] other creditors." Brief for Respondent 8, n. 2; see also 559 F.3d 963, 972, n. 1 (C.A.9 2009) (Cudahy, J., dissenting). If any of the conditions in the Agreement are not met, Chase reserves the right to "change [McCoy's] interest rate and impose a Non–Preferred rate up to the maximum Non–Preferred rate described in the Pricing Schedule" and to apply any changes "to existing as well as new balances ... effective with the billing cycle ending on the review date." Brief for Respondent 8, n. 2.

McCoy's complaint alleges that Chase increased his interest rate due to his delinquency or default, and applied that increase retroactively. McCoy asserts that the rate increase violates Regulation Z because, pursuant to the Agreement, Chase did not notify him of the increase until after it had taken effect.2 The District Court dismissed McCoy's complaint, holding that because the increase did not constitute a "change in terms" as contemplated by 12 CFR § 226.9(c), Chase was not required to notify him of the...

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