Sunday, 8 November 2009

Chase joins "Hall of Shame" for credit card terms and conditions

I've previously recommended the credit card issued by Chase in conjunction with the Amtrak Guest Rewards frequent-rider program as one of the best frequent-traveller credit cards, depending on whether you travel regularly on Amtrak, and if so on which routes. It has high fees for foreign transactions, cash advances, or interest if you don't pay your bill each month and use it as a credit card rather than a charge card. But for domestic use as a charge card, I've found it the best deal available for some years.

Unlike almost all the cards affiliated with airline frequent-flyer programs, the Chase/Amtrak Guest Rewards card has no annual fee. And if you use your points for Amtrak tickets in the Northeast Corridor or the California Corridors, you can get "free" tickets equal in value to about 3% of the amount you charge on the card, which matches or exceeds the best of the cash-rebate cards.

Now, however, I've gotten notice of new Chase terms that take effect with my November statement:

COMMUNICATIONS/CHANGE OF INFORMATION. We will send cards, billing statements, and other communications to you at any address shown in your files. If you change your name, address, or any other contact information such as any telephone number or email address, you must notify us immediately in writing at the address shown on your billing statement. Numbers and addresses you provide include those you give us and/or those form whihc you contcat us. We may, at our option, accept mailing address corrections from the United States Postal service and obtain telephone number, mailing address and e-mail address information form third parties.

If more than one person is responsible for this account, we can send billing statements and communications to any of you. Notice to one of you will be considered notice to all of you and all of you will remain obligated on the account. You agree to pay any fee(s) or charge(s) that may you may incur for incoming communications from us, and/or outgoing communications to us, without reimbursement from us.

You authorize us, or anyone acting on out behalf, to call or send a text message to any number you provide or to any number where we reasonably believe we can contact you, including calls to mobile, cellular, or similar devices, and calls using automatic telephone dialing systems and/or prerecorded messages, or to send an email to nay address where we reasonably believe we may contact you. Calls and messages may be made for any lawful purpose, including but not limited to: suspected fraud or identity theft; obtaining information; your account transactions and servicing; collecting on your account; and providing you information about products and services.

I presume that these terms are being applied to all Chase-issued cards, not just those affiliated with the Amtrak Guest Rewards Program. Check the fine-print notices you've probably already thrown away, or have Chase send you a complete copy of all the terms and conditions applicable to any of your accounts. (It may take several calls and/or letters to get them to send you more than an interest-rate summary.)

With these new terms, Chase joins American Express, Bank of America, FIA Card Services, Charles Schwab Bank, and Capital One in imposing terms that purport to allow them to:

  1. Broadcast any or all customer information (potentially including, for example, password reset information) by robocall to anyone who answers at any phone number that you have ever used, creating a severe danger of identity theft and other fraud;
  2. Harass you without limit on on your mobile phone/cell phone, at your expense for the air time; and
  3. Spam, SMS / text message, and robocall their cardholders with advertisements, including advertisements on behalf of third parties (note that the reference to "products and services" isn't limited to Chase products).

All of this seems to be becoming the new norm for credit card terms. Each time I see one of these notices, though, it has something new. Chase's terms go further than any I've seen before in asserting the right to broadcast your account information to any number or address where they think it might reach you, based on third-party information (list brokers, etc.), even if you've never used that number or address to contact Chase, and by purporting to require you to pay to receive any message they send you, even if they send you a dunning notice postage due. If a parcel shows up from Nigeria COD, purporting to come from Chase, am I now required to pay for it?

Customers should complain. More importantly, since all major card issuers are imposing these terms, leaving fewer and fewer alternatives for those who don't want to "consent" to these security and privacy vulnerabilities and liability to harassment, Federal consumer and financial regulators, and if necessary Congress, should take action pronto.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 8 November 2009, 11:17 (11:17 AM) | TrackBack (0)
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