Bill Me Later is facing a second class action lawsuit accusing the service of charging excessive interest and late fees.
The latest suit, filed by plaintiff April Colombu, says Bill Me Later is tricking consumers into using its services, thereby subjecting them to heavy finance charges and other headaches.
Columbu booked tickets through JetBlue and clicked a button reading “bill me later,” thinking that it was part of JetBlue's internal site. What she didn't know, according to the suit, was that the button created a contract with Bill Me Later, exposing Columbu to high interest and late fees.
“Work wouldn't let [my husband] off, so I canceled [the flight], printed out my cancellation, [and] thought nothing more of it,” Columbu told ABC News.
Three months later, Columbu got a bill for the canceled flight in the mail. Despite Columbu's call to Bill Me Later -- in which she told the service that she “canceled the flight within 24 hours and that I never flew” -- she was hit with monthly late fees of $39, along with 19.99 percent interest. A year and a half later, Columbu was $649 in the hole.
Second of its kind
The suit, like a similar action filed last January, accuses Bill Me Later of violating California usury laws, which prohibit non-bank entities from charging interest rates above 10 percent. Last year's suit claimed that Bill Me Later tried to skirt the “non-bank entity” requirement by enlisting CIT Bank to provide banking services for the company's transactions. This arrangement essentially meant that Bill Me Later was “renting” CIT's name, according to that suit.
Attorney Jeff Friedman, who filed both actions, said almost all of Bill Me Later's loans have an interest rate exceeding 10 percent, with many exceeding 100 percent. One of the plaintiffs said he was charged an astronomical 116.67 percent.
Bill Me Later was purchased by eBay for $945 million in 2008. Since then, the auction supersite has been working to integrate Bill Me Later into other websites, causing the type of confusion and misunderstanding that led to Columbu's suit.
In a statement, eBay said “the allegations in the lawsuit are baseless.
“Many consumers choose Bill Me Later because there is no annual fee,” eBay said, insisting that consumers face “no fee and no charge as long as the bill is paid on time.”
Following last year's suit, eBay suggested in a shareholder report that a settlement could force changes in how Bill Me Later does business.
“We intend to vigorously defend against these lawsuits,” the filing said. “However, this and other ... claims could result in costly litigation and, if successful, could require us to change the way we or our users do business in ways that increase costs or reduce revenues (for example, by forcing us to prohibit listings of certain items for some locations). We could also be subject to fines or other penalties, and any of these outcomes could harm our business.”
ConsumerAffairs.com has received its fair share of complaints describing issues similar to those alleged in Columbu's suit. Laurie of West Hollywood, CA, provides a typical account:
"Buyer Beware when using Bill Me Later. I made a purchase through adorama.com for the 500 required to qualify for no payments to 6 months. BML put the charge through as a standard purchase at an obscenely inflated interest rate of %25.99! Phone calls to their call center produce no results except the run around by employees and a different response each time you call to complain. BML also refuses you to speak to a supervisor, contending their 'managers' are unavailable and one will call you back in about 'two hours.'"