American Express wants to keep in touch.
So much so that Amex is changing its fine print so that it or its robots can call or SMS card holders on any phone line a member ever uses to contact the company, and the card holder will get the bill.
That change in its U.S. card holders terms of service agreement means travelers should be very wary about using hotel phones, pay phones, borrowed mobiles, or satelite phones to call Amex--- even in an emergency, according to travel guru Edward Hasbrouck who first brought attention to the change.
The changes were announced in credit card statements mailed out in February and they go into effect in April 2, unless card holders call to cancel.
You agree that from time to time we may monitor and/or record calls between you (or Additional Cardmembers on your account) and us to assure the quality of our customer service or as required by law.
You authorize us to call or send a text message to you at any number you give us or from which you call us, including mobile phones. You authorize us to make such calls using automatic telephone dialing systems for any lawful purpose...
You authorize us to place prerecorded calls in connection with the status of your account, or security and identity theft matters.
You agree to pay any fees or charges you incur for incoming calls or text messages from us without reimbursement.
Thats dangerous, Hasbrouck argues.
That could be costly, damaging to your relationships with friends, family, and business associates whose phones you might need to use to call AmEx in an emergency, and put you in severe danger of having your information broadcast to strangers [...], Hasbrouck wrote.
Hasbrouck wrote Amex to demand the new terms of service be revoked by April 2 or if not, then they should cancel his card then. With astoundingly quick customer service, Amex canceled his card immediately. The company has since written to say theyll refund his 2009 card fees.
But Amexs VP for Public Affairs Desiree Fish says users shouldnt worry about the change and that it doesnt mean what it plainly means. Amex will never divulge secret info over the phone or via SMS, Fish assures, and if people want to opt out of marketing phone calls, they can do so online.
We would never have a conversation without validating who we were talking to and any outbound communication, including email, text or outbound automated calls would never have personally identifiable information included, Fish said via email.
She also assures that no marketing text messages will be sent unless a cardholder chooses to get them -- depsite what the terms of service say in black and white.
Thats not enough for Hasbrouck, who notes that contacting people about fraud on their cell phone isnt much use anyway, given that most muggers these days demand wallets and mobiles.
Hes now recommending that travelers cancel their AmEx cards.
But if AmEx already has contact numbers for a card holder, why do they need the right to call any phone you ever use to call them? Why are these new terms of service necessary?
A follow-up email sent to Fish on Tuesday asked those very questions, but Fish never replied.
So be forewarned, if you happen to report a stolen credit card using a satellite phone while traveling deep in the Urals or from a pay phone in the middle of Grand Central Station, that call might cost you quite a bit more than you think it will.
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