Medford-area owners say Pennsylvania company misled them

Medford-area store owners who agreed to have ATM cash machines installed on site are levying charges of fraud against Pennsylvania-based Credit Card Center for failing to pay up.

What business owners had thought would provide an element of convenience to their customers and possibly the added bonus of extra surcharge fees has turned out to be a huge inconvenience, expense and potential legal hassle, they say.

A group of 13 store owners angry over being bilked and ignored have joined forces and hired Medford attorney Tracy McGovern to represent them against CCC and its associated leasing agents. McGovern, on behalf of the group, requested that the state attorney general's office review Credit Card Center's business practices in Oregon.

Rick Northrop of Northrop Video in White City said he was approached in September by a CCC sales representative pitching the ATM machine. Northrop and others say they were told they could expect to pay as little as $14 a month to have an in-store ATM for customer use.

After signing five-year leases with monthly payments of $254, business owners were guaranteed monthly surcharge rebates and advertising payments of $240 a month by CCC. After completing the deals, CCC handed the leases to seven different leasing agents who promptly demanded payment using strong-arm tactics. CCC then refused to pay business owners the surcharges collected on transactions., Northrop said.

Not only has CCC failed to pay as promised, checks the East Coast company has issued to retailers across the county have bounced, Northrop said.

Frustrated with what they call CCC's lackluster performance, misrepresentation, and failure to return calls or fulfill promises, Northrop and others just want the ATM machines gone and the leasing agent's debt collectors off their backs.

The thing is, we have to let other businesses know what's going on, Northrop said. They're still out there selling these things ... and they know what they're doing is fraud.

Telephone calls to Credit Card Center's corporate office in Pennsylvania and a regional office in Corvallis were not returned Monday.

Credit Card Center was started five years ago by company President Andy Kallok, and has risen quickly to the top of the ATM market. CCC's rapid growth has come at the expense of retail customers who say they have been left holding leases for machines they don't want, are responsible for paying leasing companies they had no idea existed, through a deal orchestrated by a company that won't return telephone calls, according to ATM market analysts cited in a recent Bank Networking News article.

Northrop attributes much of the blame to over-inflated commissions paid to sales representatives who receive $2,000 to $3,000 for each ATM installed.

They don't care where these things go in, Northrop said. As long as they get their (commission).

The ATM machines installed by CCC are manufactured by NCR, which earlier this month announced it will take a $42 million charge in the first quarter of 2001 for loans and receivables it doesn't expect CCC to repay. CCC also owes ATM manufacturer Tidel $26.7 million for machines.

According to Bank Network News, CCC has between 10,000 and 11,000 ATM machines installed across the country and operates out of about 70 regional offices nationwide and a refurbished 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Philadelphia.

Reach reporter Shari Downhill at 776-4463, or e-mail