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Credit card company Capital One is raising eyebrows after a surprising clause was discovered in their cardholder contracts that states "we may contact you in any manner we choose," including calls, text messages, emails, faxes or a "personal visit."
Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com, said the surprised reaction from consumers and personal finance experts illustrates the importance of reading the fine print.
"Never make an assumption of what the law is or what a debt collector can do," he said.
The news of the credit card agreement language is spreading at an inopportune time for credit card and retail companies, after privacy and security concerns over hacking incidents at Target and other companies.
After the Los Angeles Times first reported the wording, Capital One apologized in a statement and said it is reviewing the language.
"This language is not new to Capital One agreements," Capital One said in its statement. "The agreement was recently sent to a group of customers as part of the ongoing HSBC integration."
The company said that it doesn't visit cardholders, "nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work."
"The one exception is the limited case involving secured collateral," Capital One said in its statement. "We have card partnerships with several sports vehicle manufacturers (jet skis, snow mobiles, etc.), and as a last resort, we may go to a customer's home after appropriate notification if it becomes necessary to repossess the sports vehicle."
The company said they are "considering creating two separate agreements given this language doesn't apply to our general cardholder base."
Levin said he is not familiar with other credit card companies that have similar language in their consumer contracts, but he wouldn't be surprised if it existed elsewhere.
The language doesn't give Capital One any authority that breaks laws, as door-to-door sales are generally allowed except in some municipalities that limit them. Typically, anyone can knock on your door, but they cross a line if they harass you and trespass after you tell them to leave, he said.
If consumers have complaints about unwanted businesses knocking down your door, like debt collectors, they can turn to the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect not only yourself but entire communities.
"It's important to read the fine print, especially with adjustable mortgages. Those almost came back and brought the economy down," Levin said.