Credit card issuer advertises "account alerts" on its website and in other communications, e.g., to "receive a reminder when your payment is due". Customer sets up alerts, and relies on them to know when to make a payment. Bank fails to send them, resulting in late payments and credit damage.
Is the issuer liable?
Common law negligence and negligent misrepresentation causes of action typically involve a "duty of care". Does a duty of care arise under these circumstances, i.e., from the fact that the issuer advertised the feature?
The cardmember agreement does not reference account alerts at all. @Rock Ape kindly points out that a supplementary agreement may. One does (pertinent parts below). Three parts stick out:
- No express promise is made that messages will be sent at all, only that the agreement "includes access" to "Alerts". However, one could argue that it is implied.
- It contains a sentence limiting liability from "any disclosure of account information to third parties, non-delivery, delayed delivery, misdirected delivery or mishandling of, or inaccurate content in, the messages sent". Based on the context, my interpretation is that the limitation is for third-party conduct (e.g. customer's e-mail provider fails to deliver alert).
- Alerts are "provided for your convenience and do not replace your monthly account statement(s), which are the official record of your accounts". One interpretation, which seems inconsistent with the extrinsic advertisements on the website, is that the Alerts come with no guarantees at all. Another interpretation is that billing statements continue to be necessary for certain account information, e.g. transactions.
Your enrollment in the Online Service includes access to [...] Alerts. By receiving or otherwise using these services, you agree to the following terms for these services. You agree that we may send messages through your communication service provider in order to deliver them to you and that your communication services provider is acting as your agent in this capacity. [...] Additionally, you agree to indemnify, defend and hold us harmless from and against any and all claims, losses, liability, cost and expenses (including reasonable attorneys' fees) arising from your provision of a phone number, e-mail address, or other delivery location that is not your own or your violation of applicable federal, state or local law, regulation or ordinance. Your obligation under this paragraph shall survive termination of the Agreement. The Alerts and Text Services are provided for your convenience and do not replace your monthly account statement(s), which are the official record of your accounts. [...] You understand and agree these services may not be encrypted and may include personal or confidential information about you such as your account activity or the status of your account. You also understand that there may be a disruption in service when you change your communications service provider. Messages may be delayed or impacted by factor(s) pertaining to your Internet service provider(s), phone carriers, or other parties. We will not be liable for losses or damages arising from any disclosure of account information to third parties, non-delivery, delayed delivery, misdirected delivery or mishandling of, or inaccurate content in, the messages sent through the Alerts and Text Services.