Thursday, 19 March 2009

AmEx continues to spam me ... after closing my account

As I've previously reported, American Express closed my account because I objected to the new terms they proposed that would have required me, in order to keep my AmEx card after 2 April 2009, to "consent" (on behalf of myself and anyone else whose phone I might ever use to contact AmEx, including cell phones) to a lifetime of robocalls and SMS text message spam.

I've also reported that other card issuers -- including those for Paypal credit cards and some Bank of America cards -- are, almost simultaneously, adding similar terms to their "agreements" with cardholders.

[Update: I received a copy today of the "agreement" for another one of my credit cards issued by "FIA Card Services, also known as Bank of America" (and formerly known as "MBNA"), with the same clause as I had objected to in the agreement for the cards they issue for Charles Schwab Bank. I now suspect that these terms are being or have been imposed across the board on all their cards, which include a bewildering array of "private label" and "affinity" cards issued to members of alumni and professional associations, sports fan clubs, and credit unions and banks too small to issue their own credit cards. Check the issuer, and get and review a copy of the current terms, for all your cards.]

I was pleased to learn from the New York Times "Gadgetwise" blog yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission is already questioning whether such terms can actually override the requirements of the Federal do-not-call regulations. I hope the FTC also evaluates the validity of these proposed terms under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act .

I've received written confirmation, both by e-mail and by snail-mail, that AmEx has closed my account (with a zero balance), and I've deposited the check they sent refunding my annual fee.

Imagine my surprise to receive the following spam from them today about the account which -- by their choice -- I no longer have. Even if I were a customer, I would take this message as advertising, not customer service. The spam claims that, "You may contact us securely using the customer service link above", but of course I couldn't since I'm no longer their customer.

I like the comments addressing me as a "Cardmember", but the real kickers are the subject line, "Our Commitment to You", and the closing: "We look forward to continuing to serve you."

Exactly how, may I ask, am I "served" by such spam from a company that no longer wants my business? Is their "commitment" to continue to spam me forever? And if this is what I get after I am no longer an AmEx customer, what can those who remain "Cardmembers" expect?

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 08:57:06 -0000
From: "American Express"
To: "Edward Hasbrouck"
Subject: Our Commitment to You
Reply-To: "American Express"

For Your Security:
Cardmember: EDWARD HASBROUCK
Account Ending: [redacted]

========================================================

OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU: TOOLS TO GAIN FINANCIAL CONTROL

========================================================

Dear EDWARD HASBROUCK,

We have always provided our Cardmembers with the insights, information and tools they need to monitor and manage spending on their Cards.

Over the coming months, we will be introducing a number of service enhancements designed to help Cardmembers better manage their spending during these difficult economic times. We will:

- Expand our online tools to help Cardmembers actively manage spending on their American Express® Cards.

- Help Cardmembers better understand and protect their credit profiles.

- Provide even more timely communication when we make decisions that affect Cardmember accounts.

Here is what you can do right now at:
http://email.americanexpress.com/a/[redacted]/axp2

You can learn how to manage your account online and analyze what you spend. You can take advantage of electronic alerts to get weekly updates on your balance, or tell you when you have spent a certain amount, when your bill is due or when we might have detected fraudulent activity on your account.

We know that challenging times like these affect each of our Cardmembers differently. And we are committed to developing account management tools you can customize to meet your needs.

In the meantime, if you are experiencing temporary financial difficulties, call us at 1-866-239-5448.

Thank you for your business. We look forward to continuing to serve you.

Sincerely,

Jud Linville
President and CEO, Consumer Services
American Express

Contact Customer Service
http://email.americanexpress.com/a/[redacted]/axp4

View our Privacy Statement
http://email.americanexpress.com/a/[redacted]/axp3

Add us to Your Address Book
http://email.americanexpress.com/a/[redacted]/axp6

Tell us what you think. Please click below to give us your feedback.
http://email.americanexpress.com/a/[redacted]/axp7

Your Cardmember information is included at the top of this message to help you recognize this as a customer service email from American Express. To learn more about e-mail security or report a suspicious e-mail, visit us at americanexpress.com/phishing. We are unable to answer replies to this e-mail. You may contact us securely using the customer service link above.

Copyright 2009 American Express Company. All rights reserved. v2 SAF

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 19 March 2009, 05:52 ( 5:52 AM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Wow, I agree with you that infantile and potentially dangerous behavior like this (to say nothing of the problems you had with Schwab in Syria) forcefully demonstrates what's wrong with corporate America these days. But let's also breathe a frustrated reality-check sigh: ANY institution is made up entirely (and ONLY) of PEOPLE -- flawed individuals like you and me, just trying to do what they stupidly think is the right thing. In this case, AmEx et al want to be sure they can get in touch with you, so they figure they'll just call you back from whatever phone you just used to call them; I'd be willing to bet they won't systematically broadcast sensitive account info over one public payphone after another ever again after the first successful court-mandated rebate they have to give to someone as a result of doing this. And as far as your Syrian experience goes: We all know when we go to "problem" countries that part of the learning adventure of the visit will be "high international intrigue" like this. Again, the folks at Schwab just probably figure that since the OFAC rules are in constant flux, it's better (for them, at least, and maybe you, too) to be safe than sorry.

So, I recommend a level head grounded in practical reality and a healthy dose of acceptance of reactive behavior like this on the part of private companies as basic attitudes for anyone's travels through life. In other words: Plan for occassional stupid cr*$ like this so as not to get caught off guard where for-profit civilian busineses are concerned. Don't let it get you down or drain your capacity to engage lovingly in life. Where GOVERNMENTS behave like this, though (as in the RFID passports, undisclosed no-fly lists, etc) we DO need to get good and (constructively) mad and be proactive. Write your reps, petition Congress directly with signatures; do WHATEVER it takes that's legal and safe to stop freedom-impinging madness coming from those who serve us in public office. And keep reporting abuses like this by corporate America, too. Let's just not let it get us down.

Posted by: Ben Bangs, 19 March 2009, 22:06 (10:06 PM)
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