As many Americans can now attest, the way in which credit card companies have conducted their business for years crosses the ethical line of right and wrong. Largely empowered by the Cons, but not without help from ConservaDems, credit card companies have introduced a byzantine set of rules and policies with one goal in mind: maximize the amount of money they can charge Americans. Regulations and oversight fell by the wayside as the companies’ actions grew more bold and odious. The Fed announced back in December some rules that would clamp down on some of the banks’ activities. I still find it absurd that they don’t take effect until mid-2010. Americans are needlessly suffering under the banks’ unfair practices today. They need relief today.
The good news is there are some politicians in Washington who have heard their citizens’ cry for action. When he was still a Representative, Mark Udall (D-CO-02) supported the House’s Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights, one of the few pieces of legislation that Democrats named intelligently. Who wouldn’t be for a cardholder’s Bill of Rights? Certainly not the rights-loving Republicans, right? Not so much. 112 Republicons voted against the bill in the House and the legislation died in the Senate, due to Republicon obstructionism. A Colorado Independent article notes that now-Sen. Mark Udall plans on continuing to stand up for the morally right thing. I’ve criticized Mark when I thought I needed to. In this case, I heartily applaud his stance and actions. They clearly need to be publicized so that others can do the same.
I’ll be honest – I don’t remember Rep. Udall’s support of this bill last year. In any event, I read about it today and it struck a chord. Following a link from the CI article, Sen. Udall’s website has the following information:
The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights:
• Protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases
• Prevents cardholders who pay on time from being unfairly penalized
• Protects cardholders from due date gimmicks
• Shields cardholders from misleading terms
• Empowers cardholders to set limits on their credit
• Requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments
• Prohibits card companies from imposing excessive fees on cardholders
• Prevents card companies from giving subprime credit cards to people who can’t afford them
• Requires Congress to provide better oversight of the credit card industry
• Contains NO rate caps, fee setting, or price controls
For the wonky among us, this year’s House bill is H.R.627, sponsored by Rep. Maloney (D-NY). On March 19, the bill had its first hearing in the House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, covered here by creditcards dot com. The Thomas.loc.gov summary page also says the bill had two markup sessions and was voted out of the subcommittee to the full committee on April 2 (last Thursday). The corresponding Senate bill is S.235, sponsored by Sen. Schumer (D-NY). S.235 has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
I will also note that Sens. Dodd (D-CT.), who chairs the Banking Committee, and Levin (D-MI) also have a credit card bill introduced, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (Credit CARD Act – get it? see what I mean about the need to name bills better?). S. 392 has been referred to committee. The CI characterizes S.392 as going further than S.235/HR627. Not having delved into the details of either bill, I’m not going to offer an opinion other than to point out that H.R.627/S.235 would become law 90 days after signing. The banks are already crying about the rapidity of enactment, to which I don’t have a lot of sympathy. Banks have done pretty much what they wanted for 20-some years now. Reform can’t come soon enough.