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Deal Helps Disabled Dispute Credit Card Charges

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A national credit card company has agreed to do a better job serving customers who are blind or deaf after it told a vision-impaired New Yorker she had to complete a written form to dispute a charge.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced the agreement Tuesday with HSBC Card Services Inc. The company will make several changes in customer service and on its Web site to help customers with vision or hearing loss or other disabilities challenge charges on their accounts. The company has millions of customers nationwide, but there was no figure on how many are disabled. Cuomo's investigation into the issue throughout the industry continues.

Barbara Ruel of East Aurora, 71, who is confined to her suburban Buffalo home because of a sensitivity to chemicals as well as vision and hearing impairments, remembers the sense of outrage that drove her to launch the case.

She had used her credit card to buy a household item costing a couple of hundred dollars, but it never arrived. So she contacted HSBC, asking its customer service staff to fill in the required form with her answers. She was told they didn't do that. She says two of the workers said they hadn't even heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that sort of accommodation.

''I was so angry, and I just decided this has got to change,'' she said in an interview. ''It took me almost three months of several phone calls a day, Monday through Friday, every single week, to get the charge taken off my account.''

''It's very satisfying,'' she said of the agreement. ''There are so many people that are disabled, sick, elderly or all three that do not have the physical ability to fight back and they end up paying for charges they didn't owe money on.''

Cuomo said that failing to provide disabled customers with a way to receive help is discriminatory and illegal. He praised HSBC for its cooperation in what he calls a precedent for providing customer services for the disabled.

''HSBC is committed to addressing any special needs our customers have to ensure they receive a positive card experience,'' said Cindy Savio, vice president for public affairs at HSBC-North America.

Carl R. Augusto, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, called the agreement ''a model for other financial services companies to better meet the needs of all consumers.''

This article, "Deal Helps Disabled Dispute Credit Card Charges," originally appeared in The New York Times.

 

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