Corporate Revenge or Simple Error?

Lawmaker suggests a credit card company purposely revealed a consumer's information.


Yesterday, when I called Susan Wones, the consumer who testified at last week's credit card hearing on Capitol Hill, she was upset. She had just found out that Chase had distributed some of her personal information, including her account numbers and home address, to congressional staff members, despite her request that her information be kept private. (Before she testified, Wones signed a waiver that allowed the company to discuss her situation, but she says she asked that the identifying information be kept private.)

By the end of the day, Rep. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, issued a statement calling for Chase to publicly apologize to Wones, who is from his district. "Susan showed courage and came to Washington to tell her story, and now it seems she is being punished for doing the right thing and speaking out against unfair credit card practices," Udall said in a statement. He also took issue with the fact that Chase representatives handed out a rebuttal of her testimony to reporters who spoke with Wones after the hearing.

Chase acknowledges that it made a mistake in not removing Wones's address and account number from the credit card statements that it says were given to a single congressional staff member. Spokesman Paul Hartwick says the company is working to make sure the information doesn't go any further.

Conspiracy theory-minded readers might suspect Chase of purposely including her account information as a way of "punishing" her for speaking out against the company, as Udall suggested. But I think it's safe to assume it was an honest mistake, although a bad one. A company like Chase depends on having a reputation for defending consumer privacy, and intentionally revealing account numbers would do far more damage than the testimony of a consumer ever could.