A Pennsylvania law firm with a penchant for suing banks has filed a class action against Citicorp's credit card bank over late-payment fees.

The suit brought by Greenfield & Chimicles alleges that Citibank South Dakota violated Pennsylvania's consumer protection laws by collecting late fees from state residents.

Fee Called 'Oppressive'

The suit, filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, comes two months after a federal court in Massachusetts ruled that the Delaware-based bank issuing Sears Roebuck's Discover card cannot "export" its late fees to the Bay State.

"The banks are already getting interest on unpaid balances," said Michael Donovan, a senior associate at Greenfield & Chimicles. "It's oppressive to collect fees on top of that."

The Haverford law firm, which regularly brings shareholder suits against banks, is representing Loretta Irwin, who said she ran up $60 in late fees from August through November on her Citibank Visa account.

Pennsylvania law prohibits banks from levying such fees, but Citibank's credit card operation is based in South Dakota, where the fees are permitted.

Ms. Irwin asked for a refund of all late fees plus treble damages and an order banning Citibank from Pennsylvania residents.

Mr. Donovan said his case was partly inspired by the Massachusetts case, which was decided in a U.S. District Court in October. The Sears bank is based in Delaware, which permits late fees.

Many large banks have card-issuing subsidiaries in states with liberal lending laws, such as Delaware and South Dakota.

But Mr. Donovan said that states with stricter laws are becoming more vigilant about preventing banks from exporting liberal fee policies.

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