THE LONG VIEW: New credit card enticements, same old legal traps

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Speaking of mail, which we were just last week, I am the recipient of a new Card Agreement from a major credit card company.  It is a document of wonder.  By that I mean, I wonder what the heck all this means.

In this missive’s first paragraph, the card company assures me this new Agreement is designed with me in mind and is “based on what our customers told us they want to see.”  It is difficult to believe anyone in their right mind truly desires to see 17 pages of legalese.

Speaking of mail, which we were just last week, I am the recipient of a new Card Agreement from a major credit card company.  It is a document of wonder.  By that I mean, I wonder what the heck all this means.

In this missive’s first paragraph, the card company assures me this new Agreement is designed with me in mind and is “based on what our customers told us they want to see.”  It is difficult to believe anyone in their right mind truly desires to see 17 pages of legalese.

Still, I suppose it is helpful to have a reminder of my official Billing Rights, which are all about dealing with problems regarding the use of my card.  At least I know the multiple, twisted hoops I must jump through to correct any errors on my statement or if I am dissatisfied with goods or services purchased.

More than three pages of the document are devoted to Arbitration.  If the card company and I come to loggerheads, they or I may elect to arbitrate any claim, dispute, or controversy between us.  Said arbitration would be conducted by the American Arbitration Association, whose rules I can learn by going to the Association’s website.  After guiding my weary eyes through these 17 baffling pages, what could be better than going online for more legal obfuscation?

The rest of this mailing is chock full of terms and conditions regarding annual percentage rates, interest charges, foreign currency conversion, an account’s default, closing, or suspension, information sharing, and credit reporting.

In other words, the sure cure for insomnia exists, and can be found in the manuscript that arrived at my home today.

One can be reasonably confident the credit card company was required to send this information to me.  I mean, they wouldn't just do this sort of thing for kicks, composing a long, cryptic chapter of legally binding stipulations and spending good money on postage.

And I’m pretty positive what they say is true, except maybe the part announcing that this Agreement features “a clean, new design with simple language… that describes the contents of each section, so you can easily find information you need.”

Honestly, there is nothing easy about locating data in this amount of legally binding prose so stupefying the darkest, most robust coffee could not keep awake a reader thereof.

But you can take to the bank the part where the card company plainly tells you who holds all the cards.  You see, they may change this Agreement for any reason and at any time, altering fees and interest rates at will.

Also, on any whim, they can add, replace, or remove provisions of the Agreement.  Further, for any reason and at any time, they are allowed to change or discontinue any benefit, reward, service, or feature previously offered to holders of their prized plastic.

Oh, and they will notify you regarding any of those changes only if required by law. 

The company invites my feedback, bidding me to direct comments and questions to their Customer Service 800-number.  But it seems more appropriate to write them a letter, maybe something in the realm of 17 befuddling pages.

 Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com

THE LONG VIEW: New credit card enticements, same old legal traps