• 50°

Senate passes credit card overhaul bill

ANNE FLAHERTY
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) ó The credit card companies seem to have few friends on Capitol Hill these days, with even the most business-minded lawmakers siding with consumers in speaking out against steep rate hikes and fees.

The House was expected to pass, possibly as early as Wednesday, a bill that would enact sweeping new restrictions on the industry, including a requirement that customers penalized by higher interest rates because they missed a payment are given a chance to reclaim their lower rate after six months.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, 90-5.

“Card issuers raise rates for unclear reasons, use billing methods that consumers do not understand, and assign fees and charges without warning,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday said the bill would “create a more fair, transparent and simple consumer credit market.”

Of the five senators sympathetic to card lenders, two were from South Dakota, where thousands of jobs depend on the industry. Republican Sen. John Thune estimated the bill would cost as many as 5,000 jobs in his home state.

Sen. Tim Johnson, also from South Dakota and the only Democrat to oppose the bill, agreed it could be devastating.

“This is a time when millions of consumers are already facing lower credit limits and higher interest rates on their credit cards because of decreasing credit availability and continued economic instability,” he said.

Also opposing the bill were GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Robert Bennett of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

But their voices were drowned out by lawmakers who said their offices had received dozens of complaints from voters.

“We said that big banks can no longer take advantage of hardworking Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of the Senate vote.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Dem., on Wednesday brushed aside talk that credit will be more scarce if Congress approves the bill.

Calling Tuesday’s Senate vote “a great day for consumers,” Dodd also said people still must handle their money responsibly and pay their bills on time. But he also said the measure was “a long time coming, a long time overdue.”

Dodd said any assertion that credit will be hard to get is absurd, “a little like Chicken Little.”

The Pew Health Group estimates that 82 percent of cards available to consumers include the stipulation that the cardholder’s rate can increase to any amount indefinitely if the lender determines the person is too much of a credit risk. Consumer advocates say it is these types of practices that can bury consumers in debt if they make one mistake.

Under the new bill, a customer would have to be more than 60 days behind on a payment before seeing a rate increase on an existing balance. Even then, the lender would be required to restore the previous, lower rate after six months if the cardholder pays the minimum balance on time.

Consumers also would have to receive 45 days’ notice and an explanation before their interest rate was increased.

Some of these changes, including the 45-day notice requirement, are already on track to take effect in July 2010 under new rules being imposed by the Federal Reserve. But the legislation would put these changes into law and go further in restricting the types of bank fees and who could get a card.

For example, the Senate bill requires those under 21 who seek a credit card to prove first that they can repay the money or that a parent or guardian is willing to pay off their debt if they default.

Comments

Comments closed.

Health

County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

Elections

Board of Elections to purchase upgraded voting equipment using federal grant

Kannapolis

Kyle Seager drives in winning run in first game as Mariners split doubleheader with Orioles

Local

City exhausts this year’s funds for Innes Street Improvements, Municipal Services District grant programs

Landis

Landis adopts amendments to Zoning Ordinance related to signs, Planning Board terms

Nation/World

Cop, police chief resign 2 days after Black motorist’s death

Nation/World

Expert says cop was justified in pinning down George Floyd

Crime

Blotter: April 13

Coronavirus

County switches vaccines for Livingstone clinic after federal, state guidance

Coronavirus

US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

Education

Superintendent talks first 100 days, dives into district data

Business

‘It was an answer to a call:’ TenderHearted Home Care celebrates 10 years of providing care at home

News

Political Notebook: Local polls find increasing number of North Carolinians want COVID-19 vaccine

News

Trial begins on challenge to latest NC voter ID law

Local

Burch, Fisher, Marsh honored as 2021 recipients of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award

Landis

Landis board talks revenues, budget planning, department updates

College

College baseball: Catawba rolls 7-1 and 24-1

Nation/World

Student fires at officers at Tennessee school, is killed

Nation/World

Police: Minnesota officer meant to draw Taser, not handgun

Crime

Man receives consecutive prison sentences for sex offenses

Education

RSS Board of Education approves Faith Elementary sale

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department receives 400 Pfizer, 800 Johnson & Johnson vaccines for week

Crime

Blotter: Accident in Food Lion only weekend shooting to produce injuries

Crime

Salisbury man charged with felony drug crimes