Capital One to Customers: You Can't Hide From Us

Source: Loveteamin.

It seems Capital One Financial  (NYSE: COF  ) is serious about keeping in touch with its customers -- so much so that it recently sent out an updated terms of service notice to users of its credit cards. The TOS noted that the bank reserves the right to contact customers just about anywhere it wants, and by any means necessary.

An article Monday in the Los Angeles Times described the ominous language in the missive, such as the company's assertion that it may contact customers remotely, as in phone calls, text messages, or emails, or even through an in-person visit, either at the customer's home or "place of employment."

In addition, Capital One might find it convenient to "spoof" customers, presenting a number other than its own on caller ID in order to veil its identity, the newspaper reported.

A normal part of doing business?
When questioned, Capital One said it seldom does any of those things, and the visits pertain solely to loans for sports vehicles such as snowmobiles, in case the vehicle needs to repossessed. In the spoofing situation, the company said sometimes the number is "displayed differently" by "some local phone exchanges," something that is "beyond our control."

This situation would be amusing if it wasn't quite so disconcerting. Although the company told the Times it is taking a second look at the phrasing of the terms of service, it is notable that Capitol One has a reputation for being somewhat hard to deal with -- at least, from a customer's viewpoint.

Not a favorite among consumers
In J.D. Power's 2013 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Capital One ranked below the industry average of 767 points out of 1,000, compared to top-ranked American Express' score of 816. Only four other card purveyors had rankings lower than Capitol One's 756:: Bank of America, General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) GE Capital, Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , and HSBC.

Not surprisingly, a study by U.S. PIRG's Education Fundfound that data collected by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed Capital One as a front-runner in the consumer complaint department, making up 21% of the gripes recorded, with Citigroup the next most-complained-about, at 18%. GE Capital Retail, however, took the honors for the most customer complaints per $1 billion in purchases.

The aggressive language used in Capital One's terms of service notice may very well be changed, now that it has been so widely publicized. Judging from survey responses and complaints from consumers, however, its credit card contract wording probably isn't the only thing at the company that could use an overhaul.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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