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Chase PR spinmeisters versus busy journalists: 10 reasons to dig deeper and cover what’s NOT been said

As other posts here have observed, Chase PR spinmeisters have largely been successful with members of the media, minimizing the issue of its change in terms, by portraying that:

1) Account holders weren’t making enough progress paying off their balances, i.e., only paying minimums (we refute that claim as untrue and not even relevant).  This is basically a “those slow-paying laggards deserved it argument.”

2) Changes were (only) “aimed at” one half of 1 percent of Chase’s customers:  This is a “only killed a few people, who, by the way, deserved it argument.”  It was a surgical strike (supposedly), where Chase selected individuals who deserved it (since they were not paying extra, fast enough).

3)  The $10 monthly charge is a “service fee.”  No, it is not.  According to the change in terms notice (I quoting panel 2 of 2): “The charge is $10 per month ($120 total annually), and it is a finance charge.”

4) These are customers who were “carrying large balances for at least two years.”   So, when Chase promised “fixed APR Until the balance is paid in full” loans, and printed the minimum payment amount on customers’ statements, it would have preferred that customers engage in mind-reading about Chase’s desire to be paid back in under two years?

5) “The total number of customers is relatively low.”  Relative to what?  Relative to the number of homes in the U.S., the number of dwellings that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina “is relatively low”; heck, for that matter, the population of the city of New Orleans is way less than “one half of 1 percent” of the population of the United States.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individuals, families, and small businesses will be directly or indirectly impacted by Chase’s changes.

6) “The balances that these customers carry amount to billions of unsecured debt.”  All credit card debt is “unsecured debt”; another “poor, poor, banks” are at risk, and we have to “manage risk” (so we are justified in “calling in” your loans on demand) argument.  This happens to be the opposite of the “trust us,” leave your money in the bank — don’t make a “run on the bank” plea that the financial services industry would like to avoid (as it brings back disturbing memories from the great depression).  But, Chase doesn’t mind “making a run” on your money by converting low rate, long term loans into demand notes.

7) Customers can “maintain their current minimum payments in exchange for giving up their promotional rates.”  This is otherwise called bait and switch. (I thought journalism programs typically included a course in advertising?)

8) “Customers cannot opt out of the new terms..[but] they can pay off their balances.”  The spokesperson’s message is missing a vital adjective.  Truthfully stated so as to reflect the severity of Chase’s demands, it would be: “they can pay off their entire balances [immediately].”  Are you 25 months into a 60 month car loan?  Want to keep your car?  Pay the rest of the loan off, now.  (See, it’s not that hard to get along with Chase!)  This also reminds me of the parody “IRS Super EZ” form I first saw a fews years ago.  Line 1 of the form asked “How much money did you make?”; line 2 directed the respondent to “Send it to us.”

9) No “opt out” (under item 7).  This is the really, really big elephant, sitting on your coffee table, dear American credit card account holder (regardless if the card issuer/brand).  Chase executives lied to Congress (not that we’d agree that Congress is necessarily very good at representing us, one and all, but I think we would all agree that testimony before our Congressional representatives must be truthful — as for me, I tend to think that lying to Congress is tantamount to lying to the American people).

10) Chase has no comment on pending  litigation.  That’s standard, and I understand that.  However, Chase isn’t being sued for “no reason”  (see Michael E. Moore and Diane M. Rooney, Plaintiffs, v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., Defendant; Brian Woods and Kain Macy, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Chase Manhattan Bank USA, N.A., and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants;  and the suit under investigation by Girard Gibbs, LLP).  It’s being sued in class action lawsuits by firms that are pretty positive that Chase would not want a jury to hear the facts and details, without the spin, and shine the light of truth on Chase’s reprehensible behavior.*

* Since this post was first entered, additional lawsuits have been filed.  Here’s a list as of February 14, 2009:

  • Alfred D. Morris v. Chase
  • Brian Woods and Kain Macy v. Chase
  • Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
  • Michael E. Moore and Diane M. Rooney v. Chase
  • Peter G. Knapp v. Chase
  • Under Investigation by Girard Gibbs, LLP
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