Capital One’s Scary New Contract Isn’t Really New

The Fiscal Times

Social media blew up on Tuesday morning with the story that Capital One, the giant credit card issuer known for its “What’s in your wallet?” commercials had issued a new contract update granting itself the right to have someone show up at your home or place of work to discuss your credit card bill, and use technology to hide the bank’s phone number from caller ID systems.

The language in the agreement specified that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” including “mail, telephone, email, fax, recorded message, text message, or personal visit” and that contact can occur “at your home and at your place of employment.”

Related: The Sneaky Hidden Clause in Credit Card Agreements

Now, people may, quite reasonably, feel that it’s creepy and intrusive to have the bank reserve the right to send someone to see you at work, but the only news here is that somebody must have actually read the card member agreement, because Capital One’s policy sure isn’t new.

Here’s a Capital One card member agreement from last year with exactly the same language – remember the outrage when this one was mailed out? Yeah, me neither.

The media reports about the “new” agreement also highlight the following statement about the company’s policy for contacting customers by phone: “Unless the law says we cannot, we may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.”

Creepy? Yes. New? No. The very same language is in agreements that millions of Capital One customers already had. 

Related: Consumers Rethink the Credit-Card Life

The fuss seems to have arisen when former cardholders from HSBC Bank had their accounts transferred to Virginia-based Capital One after that company the bought HSBC’s card business. The cardholders received mailers from the bank informing them that their member agreement had changed. But the new agreement was a result of the change in ownership of the business, not a change of policy on the part of Capital One.

However unfounded the reports of a change in policy may have been, Capital One has been forced to respond to the public outcry. A statement on the bank’s website said the company wanted to “clarify” its position.

“Capital One does not visit our cardholders, nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work,” it reads, noting that there is an exception in place for big-ticket sports vehicles, such as snow mobiles and jet skis, which may be repossessed for non-payment.

Related: Your Credit Card Is Getting a High-Tech Makeover

On the issue of modifying or suppressing caller ID functions, the bank dodged the question, saying, “We want our calls to display as Capital One on caller id and that’s the way they are programmed. However, some local phone exchanges may display our number differently. This is beyond our control, and we want our cardholders to be aware of that potential occurrence.” The language in the agreement clearly implies an active effort on the part of the bank to mask its identity in phone calls, which is not addressed in the statement.

Finally, the bank wrote, “We are reviewing the language because we do not want to create any unnecessary insecurity among our customers.”

Probably too late for that now, but for many Capital One customers, ignorance was, apparently, bliss.

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