CIBC Visa users seeing refunds

While CIBC is not implicated in the bureau's allegations of deceptive marketing practises, the news could be another small blow to the bank's reputation, which has taken a beating in the past few years.

The Toronto Star
June 15, 2006

CIBC Visa users seeing refunds
Product pitched inflated prices. Binoculars, health monitors involved.
Tara Perkins

More than 2,000 Canadians who bought binoculars or blood pressure monitors after receiving brochures for the products in their CIBC Visa statements will be issued refunds, the Competition Bureau has announced.

While CIBC is not implicated in the bureau's allegations of deceptive marketing practises, the news could be another small blow to the bank's reputation, which has taken a beating in the past few years.

The bureau launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from a CIBC customer, said assistant deputy commissioner Andrea Rosen.

A bureau investigation found that two companies responsible for the sales brochures deceptively overstated the products' original prices to make the sale price look more attractive.

A New York firm, Media Syndication Global, and a Paris firm, Havas SA, have agreed to issue partial refunds to purchasers of the products.

Consumers who bought the blood pressure monitors will automatically be sent a refund cheque for $50 plus taxes, while those who bought the binoculars will receive $30 plus taxes.

The amounts reflect the difference between what the two firms claimed was the regular price for the products, and the amount the customers paid — essentially, the sale discount the consumers thought they were receiving.

The two firms will also insert a restitution notice in the monthly billing statement of all CIBC Visa credit card holders who received the initial brochures. The purchases took place between 2002 and 2004.

Rosen said CIBC was "very helpful in this case."

While "we would like to see all companies do more due diligence to ensure their customers aren't being deceived by marketing practices," Rosen added that CIBC was very quick to respond in this situation.

CIBC spokesman Rob McLeod said the bank had arrangements with third-party companies that would offer merchandise to CIBC customers via inserts into Visa statements. The third-party customers would source the merchandise, developing pricing and produce the inserts, he said.

CIBC has the largest market share of Canada's big banks when it comes to credit cards.

Mario Mendonca, a financial services analyst with Genuity Capital Markets, said the case will likely skate by without doing any damage to CIBC, which "really didn't do anything wrong."

The bank has been plagued by public relations problems of late, culminating in a $2.63 billion after-tax charge CIBC took last August in relation to lawsuits stemming from its dealings with Enron Corp.

In 2004, Toronto-based CIBC admitted it had mistakenly been faxing confidential client information to the wrong people, prompting the bank to temporarily use courier services to send information from its branches.


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