The Montana Supreme Court says a credit-card issuer cannot amend a cardholder agreement to add an arbitration clause, merely by enclosing a "bill stuffer" notice with the cardholder's monthly bill.
The court in a 5-1 ruling said the practice "does not provide sufficient notice to the consumer" about a change that would restrict his or her access to the courts.
The ruling came in a case brought against the Herbergers department stores by a Kalispell woman, Santana Kortum, who is an attorney. It reverses a District Court ruling that granted Herbergers' motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the lawsuit, and sent the case back to the District Court for further proceedings.
"We conclude that making a change in a credit agreement by way of a "bill stuffer" does not provide sufficient notice to the consumer on which acceptance of the unilateral change to a contract can be expressly or implicitly found." Justice James C. Nelson wrote for the court. "Consequently, Herbergers' unilateral attempt to amend its original cardholder agreement to include an arbitration clause was ineffective.
Concurring in the opinion were Justices John Warner, Patricia Cotter, W. William Leaphart and Brian Morris. Chief Justice Mike McGrath did not participate in the ruling.