A class-action lawsuit against Colorado Springs-based Ent Credit Union has been filed by Frank Azar, Colorado’s high-profile personal injury lawyer, and a Washington, D.C., law firm.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleges that Ent improperly charges overdraft fees on debit card transactions that didn’t overdraw accounts.
Franklin D. Azar & Associates of Aurora and the Kaliel law firm of Washington, D.C., filed the action on behalf of one Ent member in El Paso County and another in Tarrant County, Texas. It seeks unspecified restitution, actual, statutory and punitive damages, interest and attorney fees.
The suit, which Azar announced in a Tuesday news release, also seeks an order to halt Ent’s handling of such transactions and declare the practice a breach of contract.
“Ent Credit Union has a long history of doing the right thing for our member-owners,” Ent CEO Chad Graves said Tuesday by email. “We want to reassure our members that we take consumer complaints — and certainly allegations of this nature — very seriously. We have not yet received this lawsuit, having first learned of its existence through the media today, however we are committed to promptly researching and responding.”
Ashley Brymer of El Paso County reportedly was assessed $25 overdraft fees on a $6.51 debit-card transaction at Sonic in March 2018 and two more transactions in July, though her Ent account had a positive balance when the transactions were authorized, the suit said.
Stephanie Nelson of Tarrant County, Texas, which includes Fort Worth, was assessed $25 overdraft fees in August, September, October and January for cable television bills she paid, even though her Ent account had a positive balance when the transactions were authorized, the suit said.
Ent and most other financial institutions set aside money for debit card transactions when the transaction is authorized. But if another transaction, such as a check, overdraws the account, the bank charges an overdraft fee on the check and the debit card transaction, Azar said in the release.
Such charges violate Ent’s deposit agreement with its members, which allows it to either accept or reject a transaction and charge a fee if that transaction overdraws the account, the suit said.
Instead, Ent credits the account for any debit card transaction during a “secret batch processing process” and then debits the account a second time to actually pay the vendor or merchant, which could overdraw a member account, the suit said.
Nelson and Brymer also were assessed fees multiple times on debit card transactions that declined and tried to process two or more times, generating additional overdraft fees on the same transaction, the suit alleges. Ent’s deposit agreement says members will be charged one overdraft fee per transaction, a practice followed by most major banks, the suit said.
Ent is southern Colorado’s largest financial institution, with nearly $5.5 billion in assets and nearly 342,000 members. Azar & Associates is one of Colorado’s largest law firms, employing 45 lawyers along the Front Range. It advertises extensively on television, portraying Azar as “The Strong Arm.”
Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234 Facebook www.facebook.com/wayne.heilman