Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Official: The New Credit Card Rules Suck Wind

Back in August I wrote an article for Parade on the perils of credit cards, and I looked ahead to legislation that was moving ahead to enactment, as well as a Federal Reserve rulemaking.

Well, all that has come to pass and it's official: consumers are as prone to abuse by credit card companies, most of them beneficiaries of TARP largesse, as ever before.

Gretchen Morgenson's column in the New York Times today describes how banks are figuring out new ways of rooking customers, and regulators are doing nothing about it. One back is charging for statements, which

certainly seems to flout the spirit of both the Fed’s regulations and the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. But because it is labeled a statement fee, it does not appear to violate the letter of the law, which barred credit card issuers from levying separate fees when a consumer submitted a payment, whether “by mail, electronic transfer, telephone authorization, or other means, unless such payment involves an expedited service by a service representative of the creditor.”
The Washington Post points out that the new rules don't cover rebate cards.

Expiration dates on those cards typically range from two weeks to three months, said Brian Riley, an analyst with the research firm Tower Group. In addition, the programs are often designed to discourage consumers from redeeming the offer, he said. Riley estimated about 20 percent of $4 billion in annual rebate offers are left on the table.
Here's a laundry list (PDF file) of other methods card issuers have used to circumvent the new credit card rules, compiled by a confederation of consumer groups.

There's a lot that Congress and the Fed are totally neglecting, such as unfair collection methods that include sewer service. I'm glad that the media is focusing on the deficiencies of the credit card legislation, but there needs to be more coverage of the general sleaze involved, and the need to rebuild consumer protection laws.

© 2010 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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