Customer objected to line that allowed contact “in any manner we choose.”
Banks are known for sticking terms into the fine print that don’t always sit well with consumers. But on Tuesday, Capital One said it would rethink the wording of its credit card contracts after a little-known provision began attracting a lot of unwanted attention.
The contract, which states that Capital One can “contact you at your home and at your place of employment,” has been included in its credit card agreements for years, according to Pam Girardo, a bank spokeswoman. The contract further says that “we may contact you in any manner we choose,” including, where allowed by law, a “personal visit.”
But it may have been new to HSBC customers, who are still being integrated into the bank after Capital One bought the credit card business of British bank HSBC Holdings for $2.6 billion in 2011. Capital One recently sent out letters to HSBC customers that included an insert about the provision.
“I guess most people don’t read the inserts, but I happen to have read it,” said Rick Rofman, a retired English teacher and HSBC customer who received the notice at his home in Van Nuys, Calif.
Rofman’s story was first reported on the Los Angeles Times’ website Monday. The article attracted enough criticism and concern to prompt Capital One to respond on its website shortly thereafter.
“Capital One does not visit our cardholders, nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work,” the bank said in a statement, noting an exception for certain sports vehicle manufacturers that have repossession agreements with the bank.
Capital One’s contract also said, “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.” In its statement, Capital One said that while it wanted its calls to display as “Capital One” on a caller ID, “some local phone exchanges may display our number differently.”
“God knows how long this has been in the contract and no one even noticed,” said Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, who said he was unaware of other credit card contracts with similar provisions.
Capital One said it would review the wording of its contracts because the bank did “not want to create any unnecessary insecurity among our customers.” The 23-year-old firm started as a credit card lender and has remained as one of the largest credit card providers for consumers with less-than-stellar credit scores.
In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which required credit card companies to provide more transparency regarding fee increases and other terms.