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Hidden camera reveals how bank employees mislead and upsell on pricey credit card insurance

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A Marketplace hidden camera investigation is raising questions about how bank employees are selling a pricey and controversial product marketed to help with credit card payments if you lose your job or get sick.

It’s called credit card balance insurance, or balance protection insurance — and if you’ve signed up for a credit card, chances are you’ve been asked to buy it.

But many experts say the insurance comes with high fees — typically a percentage of a cardholder’s outstanding balance — and so many exclusions it can be hard to make a successful claim.

« If it mostly disappears from the market, that’s a good thing, » said John Lawford, a consumer rights lawyer and executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

« It’s expensive, it doesn’t cover a lot of situations, and it pays out a very small amount most of the time, » he said. « It really is garbage. »

Marketplace took a hidden camera inside some of Canada’s biggest banks — visiting Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Royal Bank and Scotiabank branches in the Toronto area — to investigate how bank employees marketed balance protection insurance when a customer signed up for a new credit card.

It revealed employees using questionable tactics or confusing and inaccurate information to sell the insurance at all banks but one.

RBC was the only bank where Marketplace was not offered the product during the hidden camera investigation.

CIBC: Added insurance without permission

In a confusing exchange, the employee at CIBC had already added the insurance to a credit card before there was a chance to decline the balance protection.

« You can delete it any time you want, » she said. « It’s easy. You just have to pick up the phone and call. That’s it. »

A look at why balance protection insurance is called ‘high risk’ for consumers:​

It’s expensive, doesn’t cover a lot of situations, and it pays out a very small amount most of the time. So why are banks selling it? CBC Marketplace goes undercover to find out. 2:09

After she was told to delete it, the employee acknowledged she should have asked first before adding the product to the credit card.

In a statement to Marketplace, CIBC wrote that the interaction « does not reflect our expectations or practices. If an issue is identified, we investigate immediately and take appropriate action to address the situation. »

BMO: No knowledge of product

At BMO, an employee seemed to have little grasp of the insurance product she was selling, struggling to explain balance protection insurance when asked to describe what it was.

« It’s an insurance … balance, » said the employee, before grabbing a brochure about the product and reading aloud from it.

BMO told Marketplace it takes any concerns from customers « seriously » and has « processes in place to review and address them when they are raised. »

Many financial experts say credit card balance insurance comes with high fees and so many exclusions it can be hard to make a successful claim. (CBC)

Scotiabank: Misinforms about coverage

At Scotiabank, an employee provided inaccurate information about what the insurance covered, claiming that the bank would pay off an entire credit card balance if someone lost their job.

Scotiabank’s balance insurance only pays 10 per cent of an outstanding balance — up to $5,000.

In a statement to Marketplace, Scotiabank wrote that its « employees receive ongoing training on our available creditor insurance solutions. »

‘We are misleading the client’

Multiple customer service representatives from Canada’s big banks have described the aggressive and questionable tactics used to get people to sign up for the insurance.

« We are misleading the client, » one employee at a big bank told Marketplace. Marketplace is not naming the employee, who fears he could lose his job for speaking out.

  • Watch the hidden camera investigation on Marketplace at 8 p.m. Friday on CBC TV and online.

The bank employee said he and his colleagues are under pressure to meet sales targets by trying to sell credit card balance insurance to every customer who takes out a credit card.

« Balance protection is something that’s a scam, » he said. « It’s just something to take clients’ money. »

It’s estimated that millions of Canadians pay for insurance on their credit cards. (CBC)

He and his colleagues would sometimes sign customers up for products like credit card balance insurance without their knowledge, the employee said.

Other times at his bank, he said, they wouldn’t tell customers the insurance was optional — even though they are legally required to do so. « So for example, we’d say … ‘This credit card comes with insurance,' » he said.

Sales reps often also don’t have a full understanding of the product they’re selling and are told to stick to a script, the employee said.

One example from that script involved citing examples of people who signed up for balance protection and were covered by the insurer after making a claim, he said.

But he said he’s witnessed many clients come into the branch to make a claim and get denied.

‘High risk for consumers’

Marketplace also spoke to a number of unhappy customers with Canada’s big banks who said employees signed them up for balance protection without their knowledge or misrepresented the product.

In one case, TD refunded a customer more than $6,000 after he said he had been unknowingly signed up for the insurance and had been paying a premium for years.

PIAC executive director John Lawford says credit card balance insurance isn’t worth it for consumers, calling it ‘pure profit’ for the banks. (CBC)

Last year, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) conducted a six-month review of sales practices inside the big banks — an investigation prompted after more than 3,000 current and former employees from all the major banks wrote to CBC’s Go Public about the pressure to push products to meet sales targets.

In May, the consumer watchdog warned a parliamentary committee that it had found credit card balance protection « problematic, » saying the tactics used to sell the product were a « high risk » to consumers and that the insurance was « often sold without the appropriate explanation of how it works. »

Despite FCAC finding some evidence of misleading sales tactics, none of Canada’s financial institutions have been fined.

Advocate wants credit card insurance gone

After reviewing the findings of Marketplace’s hidden camera investigation, Lawford said he was struck by how the bank employees really didn’t seem to understand the product they were selling.

He said he hopes Canada’s financial institutions will follow the lead of other major banks around the world that have stopped selling the balance protection insurance, such as the Bank of America and Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.

Regulators in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. have collectively fined banks billions for misleading consumers, including similar practices.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has tabled new legislation that, if passed, would create a more robust consumer protection framework, similar to ones that have existed for years in both the U.S. and the European Union.

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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