Another complaint about Capital One bafflegab

Capital One doesn't seem able to communicate clearly with customers. Spooky contract language is just the start.

Maybe Capital One should take a course in remedial English. The credit card issuer seems to be having a tough time communicating relatively simple ideas.

Betty Rome, for example, would be thousands of dollars wealthier now had Cap One expressed itself clearly. Instead, she says, the company spent months trying to trick her into opening an account she didn't want.

Yet that corporate misdirection pales in comparison to the Cap One contract update I wrote about Tuesday.

The company recently informed its millions of cardholders that "we may contact you in any manner we choose," including a "personal visit" to your home or workplace.

As if that wasn't spooky enough, Cap One's contract also said the company has the right to "modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose."

The story was picked up by news outlets across the country and prompted plenty of chirping on Twitter and other online venues.

Pam Girardo, a Cap One spokeswoman, told others what she first told me: The company has no intention of actually dropping by people's homes or offices, and it won't really mess with your caller ID.

But she has yet to provide an adequate answer about why Cap One asserted such over-the-top rights in the first place, or why customers should believe the non-binding word of a spokeswoman rather than the legally enforceable language now written into contracts.

Girardo has said only that Cap One is reviewing the contract language.

Hopefully the company will take a tip from the Greek playwright Euripides, who said that "the language of truth is simple." But Betty Rome's experience suggests this may be wishful thinking.

Her aunt died in 2010. Rome, 73, of Culver City, inherited an individual retirement account at Cap One worth about $8,600. She contacted Cap One to request the funds.

"They said I had to open an account with them to get the proceeds," she told me.

This was weird. Rome, a retired lawyer, had never heard of such a requirement.

"They said they were just following IRS rules," she said.

Certainly the Internal Revenue Service needs to be made aware of such a transaction. When IRA funds pass from a deceased owner to a beneficiary, that's what's known as a taxable event. The money needs to be attached for Uncle Sam's purposes to a new name and Social Security number.

But did the IRS actually require Rome to become a Cap One customer before she could receive her aunt's inheritance?

Rome said she went back and forth with Cap One for months about the need to open an account, and got nowhere.

Finally, in 2011, she received a letter from Jose Castanon, who identified himself as Cap One's manager of corporate complaints.

"Please understand," he wrote, "that we are required to follow IRS guidelines when processing IRA distributions."

Castanon referred Rome to the tax agency's Publication 590, which outlines procedures for transferring IRA funds from one person to another.

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