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Saturday, December 20, 2008

 

Credit Card Sharks Facing New Rules

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The Powerful Industry Has Lost Its Clout

The ubiquitous plastic cards have become a part of our lives. Most of us would find it hard to do without them. The credit card issuing companies deserve to profit from the transactions. Yes, but not to rob us as they do with the astronomical interest rates, fees, and penalties.

The proposed new rules are intended to regulate some of the abusive practices. The rules make one thing clear. The credit card industry and its lobbyists in Washington DC no longer have the legislators in their pockets. It took time. At long last our elected representatives in Congress realized that the wind had shifted. To survive, they could not go on blatantly serving special interest groups as they did in the past. The industry stopped fighting the consumer friendly rules when it faced the fact that it was no longer "business as usual." The major credit card companies still continue to bait gullible consumers by mailing pre-printed checks with monthly statements.

End of "K" Street as we knew it? Far from it. But a step in the right direction.




Washington Post

When the federal government approves new rules banning "unfair and deceptive" practices today by credit card companies, it will hand a victory to consumer groups who have long complained of lax oversight of the $970 billion industry.Even with all its lobbying power, the credit card industry was not able to beat back the most sweeping overhaul in decades. Financial companies and trade groups argue that regulators are overreacting to problems in ways that will limit the availability of credit to customers.

Today's move by Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration is the first of what could be many attempts to further regulate the industry, as several members of Congress plan to codify the Fed's regulations next year and perhaps pass even more stringent rules. It also represents a significant shift in the thinking of the regulatory agencies, which still are run by Republican appointees. Analysts note that regulators have stepped back from an emphasis on educating customers about what they should do, primarily through disclosures, in favor of telling companies and customers what they can and cannot do."

It just shows how the world has changed," said Brian Gardner, who follows financial regulation issues for the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

"Eighteen months ago the Fed was focused on disclosure and transparency, and now they're coming out with a prescriptive, rules-based guidance. It's a whole different world."


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