Unpaid credit card bills lead to lawsuits for many

Thousands of California residents are being sued for delinquencies on their credit card debt payments, as lenders attempt to discourage consumers from falling behind on their monthly bills.

Consumers are being pursued not only by lenders but also third-party debt buyers, who often purchased this debt for pennies on the dollar.

However, many of these lawsuits have resulted in dead ends for the prosecution, as debt buyers are often unable to present consumers with signed copies of legal documents such as an original credit card contract, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports. In 2010, these cases comprised nearly 40 percent of the civil cases in California courts.

"We use litigation on a select basis," Paul Hartwick, a Chase Card Services spokesman, told the Sentinel. "Credit-card losses and delinquency rates have been at or above historically high levels, and that has resulted in a higher number of debt collection lawsuits."

A debtor who receives a court summons often only has 30 days to file a response. However, there are many free legal services available to those who are suffering from credit card debt such as non-profit counseling agencies.

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