For this report FRONTLINE and The New York Times sought interviews with some of the biggest credit card issuers but all declined to make executives available. Below are the responses from two of the banks that were contacted.
» Nov. 19, 2004 statement to The New York Times by Louis J. Freeh, general counsel, MBNA:
MBNA will not comment on a specific customer's personal account information. You must understand, a credit card is an unsecured loan. We lend money based solely on the customer's promise to re-pay. With that promise, we make a specific amount of money available, for an open-ended period of time, to be used anywhere a credit card is accepted. We have a duty to monitor the risk that this presents to our portfolio. If we see indications that a customer is taking on too much debt, has missed or is late on payments to other creditors, or is otherwise mis-handling their personal finances, it is not unreasonable to determine that this behavior is an increased risk. In the interest of all of our customers, we must protect the portfolio by adjusting a customer's rate to compensate for that increased risk. If a customer believes there are circumstances we should know about that could mitigate our decision, we are always open to that discussion. Moreover, MBNA gives customers the right to "say no" to a risk-based rate increase and to pay off a balance at the old rate. Finally, independent third-party data confirms that MBNA's risk-based re-pricing is totally consistent with industry practice in terms of frequency and magnitude regarding existing accounts, and significantly below the industry with new accounts. Independent data also shows that MBNA leads the industry in upfront disclosures to customers, far exceeding what is required by law.
September 23, 2004
Dear Ms. Kheyfets,
Thank you for your letter today reiterating your request for a Providian
representative to appear on camera for your upcoming documentary about the
credit card industry, and to film footage of our operations.
Our position remains that rather than revisit the past, our employees and
our new management team are focused on providing customers with innovative
products and services -- like free online access to their credit score each
month -- that provide real benefits today.
Again, while we do appreciate your letter, we respectfully decline.
Vice President, Corporate Communications