Client’s credit card is frozen because he refuses to answer a question about his occupation

Posted Friday May 24, 2019

Category: Credit Card

Key learnings

  • Banks must ask consumers for certain information to meet their legal obligations and to help them make risk decisions.
  • Consumers will not have access to certain products or services if they do not provide the required information to banks.

 

Mr. F had held his credit card, and a number of other products, with the bank for over 25 years. In early 2018, he noticed he had not received his credit card statement in the mail. He called the bank. He asked about the missing statement. The agent told Mr. F that the bank would fix the issue that led to the missing statement. He also told Mr. F that he had missed a credit card payment. As a result, he had incurred a late-payment fee. Because he was a long-standing customer, they would waive the late fee. 

The customer refuses to answer a required regulatory question

The agent explained the benefits of the bank’s online service to Mr. F. This service would help him keep on top of his payments. Mr. F agreed to sign up for the online service. As required during this process, the agent updated the account. He asked Mr. F a series of standard questions. This included asking Mr. F for his occupation status. Mr. F felt blindsided by this question. He refused to answer. He was retired. He felt that if he shared this it would somehow be used against him.

Mr. F’s call was escalated to a supervisor. The supervisor confirmed that Mr. F had to answer the question. If he chose not to his account would be frozen. Mr. F felt that he was being threatened. He objected to what he felt was an invasion of privacy. At this point, the call became unproductive. Mr. F continued to refuse to answer the question. His credit card was frozen as a result.

Banks are required to collect certain information

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) requires financial institutions to collect and maintain certain client information. This includes a person’s name, address, date of birth and the nature of their occupation. FINTRAC requires banks to collect this information to help detect money laundering and other crimes. These questions are also a standard part of the bank’s account agreement.

The bank and client reach an impasse

Mr. F’s complaint was escalated to the bank’s complaints officer. They told Mr. F that the bank’s request for information was reasonable. The bank was legally required to ask for this information.

What did OBSI do?

Mr. F brought his complaint to OBSI. Our investigator reviewed the bank's regulatory obligations with him. Together, we reviewed the FINTRAC website. We showed him where it said that the bank must obtain client information. This includes details about a customer’s occupation or occupational status. We explained that the bank must collect the information and why.

We also spoke with the bank’s complaints officer. We explained our understanding of the dispute, Mr. F’s concerns, and what we did to allay them. After our discussion, the bank’s complaints officer reached out to Mr. F again. He cleared up any remaining misunderstandings.

The bank offers a goodwill gesture

Under the cardholder agreement, the bank was within its rights to close the account. They were obligated to restrict or close Mr. F’s account if he refused to update his employment status. After discussing his concerns with both us and the bank, Mr. F understood this. Mr. F provided the required information to the bank. The bank reactivated his credit card. They offered $50 in credit points on his account as a goodwill gesture.

Our recommendation

We were able to facilitate a resolution between the two parties. After speaking with the bank’s representative Mr. F agreed to accept the bank’s offer. We found this to be a reasonable resolution to this complaint.

© 2017 Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), 20 Queen Street West, Suite 2400, P.O. Box 8, Toronto ON M5H 3R3

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