Government actions against credit card issuers seem to have emboldened dissatisfied consumers and class action lawyers, who have been taking matters into their own hands by filing suits against the companies.

This month Citigroup Inc. agreed to pay $45 million to settle a consumer class action. The suit accused Citi's credit card unit of improperly assessing finance charges. Citi did not take blame for the problem but said it settled to "avoid the expense of litigation." And on July 7, Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank NA, the card subsidiary of Metris Cos., was slapped with a lawsuit that makes similar allegations about excessive fees. That suit is seeking class action status.

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