District Judge Thad Balkman on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the city of Norman involving what the plaintiff claims are unlawful surcharges put on credit card users. 

A breach of contract petition was filed by Norman property owner Kevin Easley in March that alleges the city is violating the Oklahoma Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC).

The city accepts credit or debit card payments for the payment of public utility bills or other services, (including, but not limited to water, sanitary sewer, and trash service), as well as payment of municipal fines and certain permits, according to the document.

If a credit or debit card is used for payment of the above listed items, there is currently a $3 surcharge per transaction.

The UCCC code, “prohibits the imposition of a surcharge or ‘convenience fee’ on a cardholder who elects to make a sales transaction with an open-end credit card or debit card account instead of paying with cash, check or similar means,” the petition states.

Easley also makes class action allegations in the petition, stating not only he, but all other customers and former customers of Norman who are Oklahoma residents who have made one or more transactions and charged a surcharge since March 8, 2010, make up the class.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the petition, stating the UCCC does not apply to the transactions challenged by Easley.

The purpose of the UCCC, the city’s reply states, is to regulate consumer credit transactions, not all sales transactions. Fines imposed by a court and permits evidencing permission to do something do not involve goods, services or interest in land. Thus, such transactions are not regulated by the UCCC, the document states.

A response filed by Easley states the city’s motion to dismiss is based almost exclusively on a misapplication and misinterpretation of state statues, which are explicit prohibitions against surcharges and convenience fees which the city imposes on its citizens who choose to pay with a credit or debit card rather than cash, check or similar means.

Court records show there was also mention of Senate Bill 817, which is currently before the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

If the bill becomes a law, the city said it will allow a municipality, as defined in Oklahoma Statutes, or a public trust with a municipality as its beneficiary to impose a convenience feel on “consumer credit sale(s)”. For example, sale of goods, services not already exempt from the UCCC, or an interest in land.

“No such transactions are at issue in this case,” the city’s reply states.

According to the plaintiff’s response, the discussion of the legislation was only offered to illustrate the way in which the Oklahoma Legislature could authorize municipalities to do what the city of Norman is doing without authority.

Balkman’s summary order filed Thursday states the city’s motion to dismiss was overruled because Easley has alleged sufficient facts to support all of its claims in his petition. 

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

Follow me @JbruhaTNT