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Credit card companies need to clarify what is, and isn't covered

Credit cards are an important resource for many, especially small business owners who are building a solid client base through online sales.

Security measures like the CVS (card number verification scheme) number on the back of cards has helped increase consumer confidence in online sales. Businesses ask for the CVS to confirm whoever is making the transaction actually has the physical card and not just a credit card number.

Much-publicized promises to cover any fraudulent transactions online helped ease fears of running up large bills if someone stole credit information - sometimes referred to as "zero liability". So it is frustrating to hear that many Canadians are facing unexpected charges when fraudsters manage to access their accounts and steal their credit card information.

Many financial institutions now routinely refuse to cover transactions made when a card is compromised, especially the CVS number. They insist that any transactions made before the card is reported lost or stolen are the responsibility of the cardholder.

But when it comes to electronic transactions, most people do not know their information has been compromised until the transaction turns up on their bill.

New Democrats have twice asked the major credit card companies, VISA and Mastercard, if zero liability covered online transactions and were reassured in both November 2011 and February 2014 that it did.

But the Electronic Access Agreements, which many consumers agree to without reading thoroughly; say that zero liability only applies after a card is reported lost or stolen.

So if someone's card information is skimmed and they don't know it, they are still responsible for paying for any fraudulent transactions - that does not inspire confidence.

Here in Cowichan people have discovered plane tickets for trips they never took on their credit cards. Others have received emails with some personal information and asking them to provide more - a clever way to get extra information to gain access to credit cards.

People already pay exorbitant fees on credit cards. And many merchants also pay really high fees to have transactions processed. The least credit card companies could do is be very clear about what is and what is not covered by their policies.

Only then can Canadians decide if the credit card companies provide enough protection to make online purchases secure.

Jean Crowder is the Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan. She can be reached at 250-746-2354.