From the October-01, 2008 issue of Credit Union Times Magazine • Subscribe!
House Passes Credit Card Measure Backed by Consumer Advocates
WASHINGTON -- The House last week passed a measure that consumer advocates said will give credit card users a better deal, but the credit union trade associations contended will increase the regulatory burden on their members.<p>H.R. 5224, which passed 312-112, would ban interest rate hikes on existing balances, over-the-limit fees and double-cycle billing. It is uncertain if the Senate will take action on the measure this year. If the bill dies in that chamber, the legislative process would have to start from scratch when the new Congress reconvenes next January.</p><p>CUNA and NAFCU both said they supported the idea of expanding consumer rights, but took issue with several parts of the measure, including a provision requiring a 45-day notice of rate changes, and the provision mandating creditors to set up a system so consumers can notify them if they want to opt-out of authorization of transactions that would push them over-the-limit, if fees are involved.</p><p>Earlier this year, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker expressed concern about a proposed ban on raising rates on outstanding balances unless a customer paid late or if a promotional rate had expired. He said this provision would "remove a vital risk management tool" if a credit union needs to protect its credit card portfolio because of rising interest rates.</p><p>CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica suggested that that the provision requiring a 45-day notice of rate increases be changed to 30 days. Currently, creditors must give 15 days notice.</p><p>Many of the provisions of the bill are similar to regulations that have been proposed by the NCUA, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of Thrift Supervision. Those agencies have said they will issue final rulings before the end of the year.</p><p>Another provision of the measure gives credit card users at least 25 days to pay their bills each month and mandates no late fees if the payment reached the credit card company on 5 p.m. on the due date. NAFCU expressed concern that this might burden smaller credit unions that have limited hours.</p><p>--firstname.lastname@example.org</p><p> </p><p> </p>