WASHINGTON - A class action against a GE Capital subsidiary challenges the way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. defines a "state bank" and may jeopardize the ability of credit card banks to impose their rates and fees on customers outside their home states.

The plaintiffs, led by consumer Patricia Heaton, are arguing that Monogram Credit Card Bank of Georgia violated state usury law by exporting its interest rates and late fees to customers in Louisiana. The suit alleges the GE Capital unit, which holds a state charter in Georgia, does not fit the definition of a state bank laid out in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act and is therefore not entitled to export its rates and fees across state lines.

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