Owner-Operators Win Suit On Credit Card Surcharges

February 10, 2000

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The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that Flying J and Pilot Corp. truckstops have been improperly imposing surcharges on fuel bought with Visa and MasterCard credit cards, but Flying J says it is confident the ruling will be overturned.

The court entered summary judgment in favor of Laurel Barrick, Harold Landry, Richard Kershman and Jimmy Hux, owner-operators who are members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., which filed the suit along with the four truckers. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction to stop the surcharge practice. The appeals court ruling means the case will be returned to the lower court to assess damages.
"Truckstops like Flying J and Pilot must learn to respect the rights of their best customers -- the small business trucker," said Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA.
According to OOIDA, the contract created by the credit card companies, the banks and the merchants specifically includes the promise not to impose surcharges on credit card purchases, and the complaint alleges that the cardholders should be able to enforce the promises made in those contracts.
Noting that the truckstops did not dispute the fact that surcharges had been imposed, the court found that Flying J and Pilot are liable for the claims of the trucker cardholders.
However, Barry Burgon, vice president/general counsel of Flying J, says the court erred when it said the truckstops did not dispute the fact that it imposes surcharges. "Flying J absolutely contests that fact," he told RoadStar Radio News. "The judges relied on representations by the plaintiff that that was an undisputed fact, and to the contrary it's a very disputed fact. We were giving a cash discount, which is permitted by federal law and by our agreements with MasterCard and Visa."
Flying J will ask the appellate judges to rehear the case and reconsider their decision in light of that fact. If the court does not reverse itself, Burgon says, they will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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