#datingscams | Oregon Arco-am/pm customers get $94 checks this summer: Here’s why

One million Oregonians will receive checks for $94.42 over the next few weeks, the second phase of a legal settlement in a case dating back nearly a decade.

In 2014, a Multnomah County jury ruled that Arco gas stations and am/pm convenience stores had been charging a 35-cent debit card fee without appropriately notifying customers. A judge ordered BP, which owns the two chains, to pay $409 million.

After years of legal and administrative wrangling, 1.7 million people received checks last year for nearly $92. Settlement administrators say approximately 1 million of those recipients live in Oregon (the rest have evidently moved out of state, or were visiting from elsewhere when they paid the illegal fee to Arco or am/pm.) A second round of checks is going out between now and the end of August.

Separately, a new state law provided $36 million each from the settlement to two Oregon nonprofits — Legal Aid Services of Oregon, which provides legal help to low-income residents, and a newly established organization called Oregon Consumer Justice, dedicated to consumer education and protection.

More than a quarter of last year’s checks went uncashed. It’s not clear why, but settlement administrators and Oregon Consumer Justice believe some people didn’t know what the checks were, some thought they were scams, some materials were only in English, and some people without bank accounts couldn’t cash the checks.

So the settlement administrators, the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon Consumer Justice have a new website (thischeckisreal.org) to educate consumers on where the money is coming from and how they can cash their checks.

Here are answers to some common questions about the checks:

What did BP do wrong?

The jury found Arco and am/pm tacked on a 35-cent debit card fee without giving customers appropriate notice, in violation of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

BP maintains that the judgment is unconstitutional but agreed to settle the case after losing an appeal in state court.

Who gets the money?

The verdict applied to customers who paid with debit cards at Oregon Arco and am/pm locations between January 1, 2011 and August 31, 2013. Oregon’s Department of Justice said 1.7 million customers got checks last year.

Additionally, under a 2015 Oregon law, BP paid $72 million to the two nonprofits. These funds come from money that wasn’t claimed in the case, as directed by a 2015 Oregon law that diverts such funds to legal aid and other organizations a judge deems appropriate to a given case.

Attorneys in the case will receive $65 million, some from the judgment and some paid directly by BP.

How do I claim my money?

The firm handling the payments, said last year that “The vast majority of class members” receive payment automatically : “You do not need to take any action to take advantage of this settlement.”

The firm says it has eligibility information and mailing addresses for claimants from legal proceedings in the case so individuals didn’t need to file a claim to assert their eligibility – though they did have until May 2019 to opt out.

What happened to the money from checks that weren’t cashed?

It went to the Oregon nonprofits. Prior to the new Oregon law passed in 2015, unclaimed settlement money sometimes went back to the companies paying the claims.

Why are the checks bigger this year?

Interest. The court set the terms for each payment in 2016, with interest beginning to accrue that year.

I don’t have a check yet. Is there a place to check to see if I will?

There wasn’t last year. The firm handling the case said then that “There is no public database where claimants can check the status of their settlement check.”

What if I’ve moved?

The law firm handling the payments said people can submit a formal address change to: Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products LLC, P.O. Box 3266, Portland, OR 97208-3266

What if I didn’t get paid last year?

Claims administrators say they are no longer accepting requests to reissue last year’s checks. Under terms of the court settlement, there is no way to claim eligibility now.

What if I don’t have a bank account?

Last year’s checks could not be cashed, to prevent theft, and recipients had to write to ask for a special check that could be cashed. This year’s checks, though, can be cashed without a fee at Beneficial State Bank, which has five locations in Portland (but none elsewhere in the state.)

There is no mechanism now for requesting a check that can be cashed for full value at other banks.

How do I deposit a check?

If you’re over 50 this may seem like an unusual question. But younger people seldom use checks — and sometimes never do. Checks are rapidly becoming obsolete in favor of electronic payments.

If you have a bank account but have never deposited a check before, you can take the check to your bank and deposit it there. If your bank has a smartphone app you can probably use that to deposit your check.

Other questions?

There’s more information about the case at debitcardclassaction.com.

— Mike Rogoway | twitter: @rogoway |




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