Pam, aged 95, had had a credit card for some years, but had not used it since 2014, at which time she owed about $5,000. Pam had been repaying the minimum balance due every month and did not think much more about it. When Pam’s husband died, she asked her daughter Tina to help her review her financial affairs.
Tina was horrified to discover that her mother had paid the credit card provider about $14,500 since 2014. Although the debt had by now reduced to about $1,500, Tina felt the credit card insurer should have contacted Pam to check that the credit card continued to meet her needs.
The credit card provider offered to consider a hardship application saying that if Pam was experiencing financial hardship, it would freeze the debt and enter into a repayment agreement.
Tina did not accept the credit card provider’s offer, saying that it would be reasonable for the credit card provider to write the debt off entirely. When the credit card provider did not respond to this request, Tina complained to FSCL.
We wrote to the credit card provider noting that, from a legal perspective, it may be entitled to recover the debt from Pam, but expressing our concern that an essentially dormant account had been allowed to continue on without the credit card provider checking that the product was still appropriate for Pam. Having regard to good industry culture and conduct, we asked the credit card provider to write off the balance owing.
The credit card provider agreed to our request.
Both Pam and Tina were delighted with the outcome. The $1,500 debt was written off and the account closed.
Insights for consumers and participants
We were pleased to see a credit card provider doing ‘the right thing’ by their customer. If you see something that doesn’t seem fair to you, it is worth referring a complaint. Although you may not always achieve the outcome you’re looking for, it is worth asking us to take a look.
We also remind participants of their obligation to treat their customers fairly and ethically. As customer’s needs may change over time, we encourage participants to check that their products remain suitable for the particular customer.