JP Morgan unit 'forgives' credit card debt of Canadian customers

FILE PHOTO: A sign of JP Morgan Chase Bank is seen in front of their headquarters tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

TORONTO (Reuters) - A unit of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co has agreed to “forgive” the outstanding credit card debt of its Canadian cardholders as part of the U.S. bank’s move to exit the Canadian credit card market, the company said on Thursday.

Chase Bank, which is operated by JP Morgan Chase, announced in January 2018 that it would close all credit card accounts in Canada on March 15 of that year. At the time, customers were required to continue making payments on their accounts.

The bank declined to say when it made the decision to write off the remaining debt. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quoted some customers as saying they received letters from the bank this week informing them of the decision.

Chase declined to disclose how many clients would be affected or how much debt was outstanding.

An alternative would have been to sell the debt to a third party, but the company felt that simply cancelling the debt entirely “was a better decision for all parties, including and most importantly our customers,” Maria Martinez, vice-president of communications for Chase Card Services, told Reuters.

“It’s crazy,” Douglas Turner, a 55-year-old long-haul trucker, told CBC. “This stuff doesn’t happen with credit cards. Credit cards are horror stories.”

Turner told CBC that his debt was more than C$6,000 ($4,536.52).

It is a unique situation that is “unlikely to be repeated,” said Scott Hannah, president of the Credit Counseling Society. “It’s a first, on this scale.”

Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Dan Grebler