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News Now

Washington
Credit card bills see Hill action
WASHINGTON (3/14/08)—Legislation to introduce reforms of certain credit card practices has been seeing action this week in both the House and the Senate. On the Senate side, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the Credit Card Reform Act (S. 2753) Wednesday. Menendez is a member of the Senate Banking Committee. His bill is intended to end what Menendez labeled “egregious” practices such as excessive fees, retroactive rate increases, universal default, unilateral changes to credit card agreements, and deceptive credit card offers. In the House, the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit conducted a hearing Thursday on "The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights: Providing New Protections for Consumers." That bill was drafted by the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and has the support of, among others, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who heads the full Financial Services Committee. While there are many common areas embraced by the two versions, they are not identical. For instance, the Senate bill includes an opt-in clause which would require card issuers to receive approval from consumers under the age 21 before they could mail credit card solicitations to the young consumers. The House bill does not contain this language. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) generally supports legislative action that protects consumers from predatory lending practices, but also monitors this type of legislation to ensure that it does not have an unintended consequence which would hamper credit union service to their members. CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan has noted that, while credit unions are not the target of these bills, the legislation may affect credit card programs that credit unions offer their members. "We're taking a close look at all of these bills. We've discussed these issues with a number of credit unions to try to get a sense of exactly how the bills will affect credit unions," Donovan said. Separately, the Federal Reserve Board is working to update its Regulation Z for credit card disclosures. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee last month, said the agency soon would exercise its authority under the Federal Trade Commission Act to write regulations to better protect consumers from unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the credit card industry.


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