But the next time they try to use their debit card it's declined for insufficient funds. Oops! So what happened?
When a consumer uses their debit card like a credit card at a Hess gas station (they slide it into the slot and don't enter a pin number), it's company practice to put up to a $100 hold on the bank account for 3 days even if the consumer pumped less than $100 worth of gas into the car.
More than one consumer has found himself or herself wondering what happened to the money they thought was in their account after filling up at a Hess station on the eastern part of the country.
Two Florida attorneys, Jim Staack and Cameron Moyer, are currently wrangling a class action through the court system on behalf of a client who was pretty revved up after a Hess gas station drained $50 out of her account after she bought $10 worth of gas.
When Staack and Moyer's client went to buy groceries shortly after, the store clerk handed her card back to her. "Your card is declined ma'am," is not something anybody likes to hear.
"If you buy $10 worth of gas you don't expect a $50, $75 or $100 hold to be placed on that account," says Jim Staack from Staack, Simms and Hernandez in Clearwater, Florida. "When they fail to tell you what they're doing--that it can result in all kinds of nasty surprises like bounced checks, overdraft charges."
And their client isn't the only person stung by the "debit card surprise". Since they launched the suit they have heard from dozens of other people left standing at a store checkout counter with a red face because of a rejected debit card.
The Hess Corporation is one of the nation's largest oil and gas companies with drilling and refining operations and hundreds of gas stations up and down the east coast. The policy of putting a minimum hold on funds in customer's bank accounts likely affects millions of Americans at the very least.
"This goes to the very core of American law," argues Cameron Moyer of Moyer Law, co-lead counsel in the suit. "Anyone in America that makes a purchase has a right to know all the terms and conditions before they make the purchase."
Simply put, Moyer and Staack say this is an unfair business practice that violates consumer rights. "The problem here is that they have failed to adequately disclose what they are doing, because if they told you then you would know whether to go forward with the transaction," says Staack.
The case was certified as a class action last fall, but the Hess Corporation is appealing that decision. "We believe we have a good case, we think the fact that the judge certified it as a class in the first place shows that," says attorney Staack.
"If you boil it down," says Moyer "a customer has a right to know all the details of the transaction before they enter the transaction."
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"We see it as an unfair and deceptive trade practice. It's a failure to disclose to the consumer," adds Staack. "It would be fine if they told you they were doing it, but our clients and a lot of people who have called us aren't happy with this," says Jim Staack.
Jim Staack is the founder of Staack, Simms & Hernandez and has an extensive background in Real Estate and related transactional and litigation work, class actions and bank work. Cameron Moyer, from Moyer Law is a University of Baltimore School of Law graduate and specializes in appeals and appellate law, business law, estate planning and general civil litigation.