My wife and I have a Jordan’s Furniture charge account issued by HSBC NV, a somewhat shady subsidiary of HSBC with a history of predatory lending and suspicious practices. They issue “private label” charge accounts for Jordan’s and many other retailers.
We have a balance on the account under one of their frequent “buy now, pay later with no interest” promotions, which they offer to virtually anyone who is eligible for a charge account. As long as we make the minimum monthly payments on time and pay off the entire balance before the end of the promotion, we will pay no interest. However, if we are late for just one payment, the promotion is canceled automatically and we have to pay a high interest rate retroactively back to the day we made the purchase.
We are signed up for paperless billing on the account. Instead of sending us a paper statement every month, they post our statement on their Web site and send us email notifying us that it’s available.
Several months ago, that email never arrived. I aggressively scoured the logs on my email server and could find no evidence that it had ever been sent. Fortunately, I have an automated process that warns me when I’m about to be late paying one of my credit cards, so I was able to make the required payment on time despite never being notified of its due date.
But how many consumers don’t have such a process? How many consumers ended up paying a late fee and retroactive, high interest because HSBC never told them a payment was due? Does anybody want to place odds on whether HSBC proactively told their customer service representatives to be on the lookout for people who call about this and to refund the late fee and restore the promotion for anyone who complains? I think that’s highly unlikely. Rather, I think that anyone who called about this probably got the runaround for hours and hours, with HSBC hoping that they would just give up.
Note that the CARD Act requires card issues to send statements at least 21 days prior to the payment due date.
I didn’t complain about this the first time it happened, because while I was pretty certain that I never received the email, I wasn’t positive about it, and I certainly couldn’t prove that the missing email wasn’t my fault (how do you prove a negative?). Then, HSBC really stepped in it.
This month, I once again didn’t receive an on-time email payment-due notification. Note that I said on-time. I did receive a notification, but it came five days after the payment due date. And the headers of the message make it clear that it wasn’t delayed in transit — it wasn’t even sent until five days after the due date.
With the proof I needed in hand, I filed a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which oversees national banks such as HSBC NV.
A day later, I received a second email payment-due notification from HSBC, again for the payment that was actually due several days ago. This one, however, said “Your latest Saks Credit Card Statement is Available Online”. As noted above, it’s a Jordan’s card, not a Saks card. Nice screw-up, HSBC!
A few seconds after that, I received a third email payment-due notification for the same past due date. Don’t you just love it?
Do you think the OCC will do anything about this? I don’t. *sigh*