Alright, something is happening on the Hill! The House approved legislation that would institute a consumer's "Bill of Rights" regarding the credit card industry's unfair practices. The credit card companies are finally being reined in! (If you believe that, I have a wonderful bridge for sale. Interested?)
House bill: H.R.627
Senate bill: S.235
The House, by a vote of 357/70, adopted a series of amendments, some of which were pushed by the White House, that increases restrictions on industry practices. The bill, dubbed the "Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights," wouldn't take effect until a year after enactment. For sure, there are some much needed reforms addressed by this bill, such as prohibiting retroactive rate hikes and double cycle billing (Double-cycle billing eliminates the interest-free period for consumers who move from paying the full balance monthly to carrying a balance). Also, companies would be prohibited from giving cards to people under 18 years of age. Good rules, but what I don't understand, is why these rules, if the bill passes the Senate, would not take effect for a full year, July 2010.
If it were left to some legislators, the bill would never even become law. Opponents tried to weaken the bill with amendments that would have given credit card issuers some openings to raise rates within the new proposed restraints.
"We shouldn't take credit opportunities away," insisted Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. "I just want consumers to have choices. I want there to be a competitive marketplace." (Trust me, this bridge is a deal!!)
Last week President Barack Obama met with executives of the credit card industry and made clear he wants to sign a bill into law. He reaffirmed it as a priority that legislation was a must to protect consumers from "abusive fees and penalties." Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the bill's chief sponsor, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with representatives of consumer and civil rights groups to discuss the credit card overhaul.
At least something appears to be happening. Still, the fact remains, the credit card companies have powerful lobbyists. The Senate still has to work on their version of the bill, and pass that. In the meantime, we need to take the driver's seat, and do what we can to free ourselves from the tyrranical influence of credit card abuse.
During this next year, the credit card companies will be able to wreak as much havoc as they please! The only exception in the House bill, is that customers receive 45 days notice before their interest rates are increased; this provision will take effect in 90 days.