Can Capital One's debt collectors make a personal visit to your home to demand that you pay up?
The company has come under fire after a column in the Los Angeles Times this week suggested that those in-person visits are possible under new contract language sent to cardholders. The update says Capital One "may contact you in any manner we choose," including a personal visit to your home or your place of work.
The policy caused such a stir that Capital One found itself in the uncomfortable position of having to back away from its own language. Spokeswoman Pam Girardo told the Times and other news sites that Capital One will not visit cardholders or send debt collectors to visit.
The one exception to that, Girardo told CreditCards.com, is when a buyer pledges snowmobiles, personal watercraft and other big-ticket items as collateral for secured loans. Capital One may visit someone's home in that case "as a last resort" to repossess those purchases.
It's a touchy issue with consumers. Several states have laws that ban creditors from calling people at their workplaces, CreditCards.com reports. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits people from being called at home after 9 p.m. and before 8 a.m.
Other experts called the contract language "creepy," USA Today reports. "It is a bit over the top," the CEO of LowCards.com told the newspaper. "They can try to get the money back but they can't come to my door and take my stereo away."
Capital One was also defending contract language saying the company can "modify or suppress" caller ID services and identify itself on those services in any manner it chooses. So, does that mean Capital One can modify its caller ID to make it look like you're getting a call from, say, the Powerball winners' notification bureau?
Spokeswoman Girardo said that language was in the contract because local phone exchanges may display the company's number differently. "This is beyond our control," she told The Times.
None of this went over well on Twitter, where people poked fun at Capital One and expressed dismay at the idea of it knocking on their door.
"Wow, and you thought loan sharks were bad," wrote one user. "Note to self: never use @capitalone," wrote another.
Capital One now says it's reviewing its contract language to avoid creating "unnecessary insecurity" among its customers. Perhaps it should change its slogan, too, because "What's in your wallet?" has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning.