ARLINGTON -- Odysseas Papadimitriou is the CEO of credit card watchdog company, based in Arlington. Ironically, he's been battling American Express over its late payment policy. American Express says a credit card payment he made seven days after the due date was actually 30 days past due.

'I'm like 'what the hell is going on?' So I said it must be a mistake,' he states.

He was even more surprised when an American Express customer service representative told him the company determines what is past due not by the number of days beyond the due date but by calculating to the date the bill was generated, possibly before a customer even receives it.

'I said that's very interesting because being past due means past the due date. That's not up for interpretation,' he claims.

Papadimitriou's company conducted a study on late payment policies and found no other credit card company did similar calculations.

A customer in Hampton Roads received an American Express Gold card credit card bill listing a $25 charge as a 45-day late fee. Admittedly, the payment was made 21 days late. That person got the same explanation -- 'past due' is determined by the date the bill was generated, not from the due date listed on the statement.

A spokesperson for American Express insists the policy isn't designed to collect more money in fees.

'Absolutely not,' says Marina Norville, who states the company's policies are consistent with industry standards. 'The practice of applying a late fee is not different than any other financial institution or bank.'

American Express says the language on the bill and how customer reps are stating it is what's confusing, so the company is in the process of doing retraining.

'The thing that gets confusing is how our internal nomenclature about the aging of an account enters into this explanation, which we are training all of our reps to speak about this in a different and a more clear way that is consistent with the rest of the industry, because I agree, it is confusing,' admits Norville.

American Express says other companies charge late fees as early as one day after the due date, so its calculations actually give the customer more time.

Papadimitriou feels the language is intentional to make a customer think he is later than he actually is and could scare some customers into paying future American Express bills first.

'They're looking for ways to take even clear, standard terms, define them in their own, way which benefits them,' he says.

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