Edmonton family struggles to cancel credit card even with power of attorney
An Edmonton-area man struggled to get a credit card canceled for his infirm father despite his family having power of attorney.
After showing early signs of dementia, Darren Lavigne’s father went through a law firm to give his wife a lasting power of attorney (POA) in 2018, effective immediately.
His father continued to deteriorate.
Two years ago, he left home one night without telling anyone and was found nearly 18 hours later in Calgary, Lavigne said.
He now lives in a long-term care facility.
It’s unclear when her 80-year-old father signed up for a Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard, but attempts to cancel have been frustrating, Lavigne said.
In November 2020, Lavigne’s mother sent a photocopy of the power of attorney and requested that the credit card be changed to her name. She received a reply asking for the original power of attorney or a notarized copy.
Advice published by the Center for Public Legal Education Alberta indicates that in most situations, a photocopy of the lasting power of attorney is not sufficient, as individuals or businesses want to see an original or notarized copy.
Canadian Tire also included additional identification documents to be signed in front of a surety within 30 days and requested written statements of mental infirmity by two physicians, citing federal regulatory requirements.
“It struck me as ridiculous,” Lavigne said, noting the costs that might be involved.
Lavigne’s mother requested that the card be canceled and refused to activate the new mailed cards when the old ones expired. She tried unsuccessfully to end pre-authorized payments through their bank.
During this time, an identity theft protection cost of $10.49 per month accrued and was later withdrawn from their bank account.
Lavigne stepped in to help this winter but had no success with customer service.
“I said, ‘Does it make sense to you that my mom can literally unplug my dad from life support, but she can’t cancel his credit card?'”
CBC News contacted Canadian Tire Corporation about the card on Tuesday. The next day, Lavigne said, he received a call from a representative saying the card would be canceled and the money refunded.
The company said in a statement on Thursday that protecting customer privacy and security is its top priority.
“And, in reviewing this case, we recognize that there were ways we could have provided a better experience for our client, and remain committed to helping families who may find themselves in similar situations.
“We have contacted the Lavigne family directly, and the matter has been resolved.”
Lavigne said he understands the need for legal policy, but there should be more room for empathy, especially for those who may find themselves in a more difficult situation.
“We’re definitely not in that situation, but $10.49 a month for someone on a fixed income might be a good amount of money they need,” he said.
“And if you don’t have the resources or the wherewithal to fight it, you’re in trouble.”
Michele Markham, who deals with elder abuse as manager of the Sage Seniors Association shelter, says navigating the powers of attorney is fraught with pitfalls.
Establishing a legal document can be prohibitively expensive for older people, especially in rural areas. Banks could also offer their own proxies, but those likely won’t work elsewhere, Markham said.
“The other thing we know is that banks are inconsistent in their approach to a power of attorney,” she said. Some may not accept the original power of attorney while others may require their own additional documents to be signed.
Markham recommends working with an attorney to prepare power of attorney documentation before it is needed and checking with financial institutions for policy.
In elder abuse cases, Markham said advocates also run into accountability issues for policy makers. She said there was a need to reform existing legislation and practices.
“Especially since we know this is going to become an increasingly significant problem as our population ages.”