APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR
L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE WILSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
These consolidated cases involve the trial court's granting of motions to dismiss in actions against defendants for failure to comply with disclosure requirements of a consumer credit act pertaining to revolving charge accounts. Plaintiffs contend that: (1) the trial court's rulings that defendants are in "substantial compliance" with the act are erroneous, and (2) the trial court's construction of the act is erroneous. We affirm.
These cases have been consolidated because they both involve an interpretation of "An Act in relation to the billing of customers under revolving charge accounts" (hereinafter the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 121 1/2, pars. 391, 392). Section 1 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 121 1/2, par. 391) provides in relevant part:
"Any * * * statement of account sent to a retail customer who has made a purchase under a revolving charge account * * * must set out side by side and with equal prominence both the amount of the total balance owing on the account as well as the amount of the monthly payment due on the account; the annual percentage rate of the total finance charge, interest charge and other charges, and the date by which, or the period (if any) within which, payment must be made in order to avoid additional interest charges or other charges."
In case No. 78-632, plaintiffs brought a class action suit against Amoco Oil Company and American Oil Company, alleging that Amoco's monthly billing statement failed to comply with section 1 of the Act in that it did not list the four required disclosures "side by side and with equal prominence." The first two disclosure items, the total balance and the monthly payment, appear twice on the statement, once in the upper right hand portion "side by side and with equal prominence," and again in the middle of the left hand portion one above the other. The third item, the annual percentage rate, appears in the lower left hand portion in print larger than the other disclosure items. The fourth item, the closing date or period within which payment must be made, appears as a formula in the middle of the left hand portion next to the total balance. The formula, which states that payment must be made within 25 days of closing date to avoid additional finance charge, requires the credit card holder to refer to the closing date of his statement which appears in the upper right hand portion.
In case No. 78-633, plaintiff brought a class action against Marshall Field & Company and Fieldel, Incorporated, alleging that Field's monthly billing statement failed to comply with disclosure requirements of the Act. In the Field's billing statement, only the total balance and monthly payment appeared near the top right hand portion "side by side and with equal prominence." The annual percentage rate, introduced by bold print, was located in the lower left hand portion of the billing statement. The closing date or period within which payment must be made to avoid added finance charges, also introduced by bold print, arguably appeared in the lower left hand portion of the statement. The exact closing date was not listed, but the statement did say that to avoid additional finance charges, the new balance had to be paid before the following month's closing date. However, next month's closing date was not listed on the statement.
Plaintiffs in both cases requested declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief pursuant to section 2 of the Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 121 1/2, par. 392.) As part of their request for monetary relief, plaintiffs requested a refund of all finance charges and other amounts, "other than the cash price," collected during the period from October 6, 1969, to the termination of the instant suit.
Defendants in both cases moved to dismiss on grounds that the complaint was insufficient in law to state a cause of action in that: (1) Section 2 of the Act does not create a private right of action for violations of section 1; (2) defendants have at all times complied with section 1; and (3) plaintiffs do not have "revolving charge accounts" with defendants and therefore the Act does not apply. After hearing arguments, the trial court dismissed plaintiffs' complaints, finding that defendants' billing statements "substantially" complied with the requirements of section 1 of the Act.
Plaintiffs argue that neither of these billing statements are in substantial compliance with the disclosure requirements of the Act. They contend that the statements fail to substantially comply with the Act in that neither one lists the four disclosure items "side by side and with equal prominence" and neither one lists the fourth disclosure item. In order to respond to plaintiffs' contentions we must first ascertain exactly what the Act requires.
1 As originally enacted, section 1 of the Act required that statements of account:
"* * * must set out side by side and with equal prominence both the amount of the total balance owing on the account as well as the amount of the monthly payment due on the account." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 121 1/2, par. 391.)
In 1969, section 1 was amended to also require the disclosure of the annual percentage rate and the closing date or period within which payment must be made in order to avoid additional finance charges. In making this amendment, however, the legislature did not rewrite section 1, but merely substituted a semicolon for the period which originally ended the statute and added the two new disclosure items. Plaintiffs contend that the amended Act is clear in its requirement that all four disclosure items be listed "side by side and with equal prominence." Defendants contend that the Act merely requires that the first two disclosure items be listed side by side and with equal prominence and that the other two ...