When you get a credit card statement, do you ever read all the legalese on the back of the pages with the I-owe-a-fortune-amounts? I’ll bet many people don’t, despite the imploring of many consumer advocates.
Consumer Reports, in particular, practically harangues readers to be aware of the ability of credit card companies to change terms and conditions as they wish.
So, when I got a 12-page statement from American Express this month full of amendments to the credit card agreement, I decided to give it a read. One thing stuck out, in a section entitled “Telephone Communications.” Check out what I am agreeing to should I use the card after April 2, 2009 (all emphasis is mine):
You authorize us to call or send a text message to you at any number you give us or from which you call us, including mobile phones. You authorize us to make such calls using automatic telephone dialing systems for … offers of American Express products and services... You agree to pay any fees or charges you incur for incoming calls or text messages from us without reimbursement.
You can read the whole section in the PDF attached to this post. As I read it, American Express is saying:
- The heck with Federal and state do-not-call lists. If you call them for any reason — say you are checking a charge — they get to call you back at that number for anything they like, including marketing purposes
- If you make the mistake of calling them from your cell phone, you can expect them to call you back on the cell phone whenever they like. And you pay for the airtime. I know people have lots of minutes, but do you like burning them up while listening to a pitch for American Express’s latest high-cost credit product?
It’s pretty interesting how American Express has slipped the marketing permissions — a sort of default re-opt-in for people who have explicitly opted out — into the middle of a section ostensibly about security and account protection. While I don’t think anyone would object to getting a call about potential fraud, I, for one do not want American Express to feel free to call me on any number their ANI system sees me calling from. It’s bad enough that they use ANI to identify me when I call from home. (Did you realize that even if you have the phone company block outgoing Caller-ID for all your calls, an 800 number you dial still gets the number? After all, they’re paying for the call.)
What bothers me most about this is this is precisely the kind of thing that makes people really resent big companies. American Express wants to become a bank — get its piece of TARP. Then it wants to use loopholes to get around telemarking regulations and privacy opt-outs. Otherwise, how will they sell us checking accounts and CD’s?
No wonder there’s distrust of businesses…when you get your attorneys to slip something like this into an agreement, using “business logic” to rationalize it, you only put customers on the other side of a bright line…one they will pressure politicians to ensure business cannot cross.