Edmonton family struggles to cancel credit card even with power of attorney

An Edmonton-area man has 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 enduring power of attorney (POA) to his wife in 2018, effective immediately.

His father continued to deteriorate.

Two years ago, he left the house 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 his 80-year-old father signed up for a Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard but attempts to cancel it have been frustrating, Lavigne said.

In November 2020, Lavigne’s mother sent a photocopy of the POA and asked that the credit card be changed to her name. She received a response asking for the original POA or a notarized copy.

Advice published by the Center for Public Legal Education Alberta says in most situations a photocopy of the enduring POA is not enough as people or companies want to see an original or notarized copy.

Canadian Tire also included additional identification paperwork to be signed in front of a guarantor within 30 days and asked for written declarations of mental infirmity by two doctors, citing federal regulation requirements.

“It seemed ridiculous to me,” Lavigne said, noting the costs that could be involved.

Lavigne’s mother asked the card be canceled and declined to activate new cards sent through the mail when the old ones expired. She tried unsuccessfully to end pre-authorized payments through their bank.

Meanwhile, an identity theft protection cost of $10.49 a month racked up, and was later withdrawn from their bank account.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 any sense to you that my mother could literally unplug my father from life support but she can’t cancel his credit card?'”

Matter resolved

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 money refunded.

On Thursday, the corporation said in a statement that safeguarding customer privacy and security is its top priority.

“And, in reviewing this case, we recognize there were ways we could have delivered a better experience for our customer, and remain committed to helping families who may find themselves in similar situations.

“We have connected with the Lavigne family directly, and the matter has been resolved.”

Lavigne said he understands the need for legal policy but says there should be more room for empathy — especially for those who might be in more dire straits.

“We’re certainly not in that situation, but $10.49 a month on someone with fixed income could be a decent chunk of money that they need,” he said

“And if you don’t have the wherewithal or the means to fight it, you’re in trouble.”

Inconsistent approach

Michele Markham, who deals with elder abuse as manager of the Sage Seniors Association safe house, says navigating POAs is fraught with challenges.

Drawing up a legal document can be prohibitive for older adults, especially in rural areas. Banks might also offer their own POAs but those will likely not work elsewhere, Markham said.

“The other thing we know of is that banks are not consistent in how they approach a power of attorney,” she said. Some may not accept the original POA while others may require their own additional paperwork to sign.

Markham recommends working with a lawyer to prepare POA documentation before it’s needed and checking with financial institutions about policy.

In elder abuse cases, Markham said advocates also run up against accountability issues for decision-makers. She said there is a need to reform existing legislation and practices.

“Especially given that we know this is going to become a bigger and bigger issue as our population is aging.”

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