15 August 2008

Staples Discriminates Against People Without Phones - P2

This is a follow-up to my previous post about Staples' online store initially refusing my order because I'd not provided a phone number.

The Staples representative had written that it was Visa policy which was guiding store policy. That in fact, Visa required customers to provide a phone number, one which must match the phone number purportedly listed on the Visa cardholder's account.

I wrote then, in an addendum to the original post, that I'd recalled reading somewhere that Visa did NOT require customers to provide a phone number. And now here's the proof that indeed they don't.
Address Verification Service (AVS) helps ensure that the person making the purchase with their Visa card is the same person who receives the Visa card’s monthly statement. By matching the billing address your Visa card issuer has on file against the billing address you provide during check-out, merchants and issuers work together to help ensure that lost or stolen Visa cards are not being used in card-not-present environments to purchase goods or services.

For cardholders, AVS means that unless the correct billing address is provided to the online, mail or telephone merchant during check-out, the transaction will not be completed which may stop a fraudulent purchase from being made.

That is a complete quote from Visa Canada's website. Nowhere is it mentioned that a phone number need be provided or verified against a phone number on file at Visa.

In other words, Staples is passing off their own policy as being that of Visa, in order to justify their requiring customers to include a phone number when submitting online orders.

While I understand that online merchants may want a means of contacting persons who place orders, in the event of delivery problems, a phone number shouldn't be the only (non)option provided.

Many low-income people have free web-based email accounts, to which they're able to gain access from public computers at libraries, local resource centres, and so on.

Therefore, in order to be more inclusive of people's diverse circumstances, online merchants should offer their customers a choice between providing a phone number and an email address.

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