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Statement of Diane E. Brown, Arizona PIRG Executive Director, On U.S. Senate Passage of the Credit Card Act
The Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) commends the U.S. Senate on overwhelming passage of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, S. 414, as introduced by Senator Chris Dodd, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee. While the U.S. House has already passed a similar Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights, we expect that the House will simply pass the identical Senate bill so Congress can send a final bill for the President to sign before Memorial Day.
For too long, owning a credit card company has been a license to steal. Over the last few years, the banks increased their use of abusive tactics, such as changing due dates so they could trick consumers into paying late. Worse, they charged a double whammy-a high late fee first and then tripled interest rates to 36% APR or more. Second, they started charging good customers higher rates because they supposedly paid some other creditor late (universal default). But that was not enough, so they started raising the rates of customers who had been late to no creditor, for no reason at all. That was their biggest mistake. Gouging everyone caused thousands and thousands of Americans who just want a fair deal to contact Congress and even the Federal Reserve.
The Credit Card Act bans nearly all retroactive rate increases on current balances, it prohibits universal default in the first year and it protects college students from unfair marketing of credit cards.
Due to abusive practices by credit card companies, we are now on the verge of historic credit card reform. Is it everything we want? No, we should also ban raising rates going forward, not just retroactively, and we should ban forced arbitration clauses in credit card contracts and reinstate usury ceilings. But final passage of this historic credit card reform legislation will stop big credit card companies, many of which are feeding at the TARP taxpayer trough, from cheating Americans out of their hard-earned money. That will help working families so that they can become part of our economic recovery, not lurch on a credit card debt treadmill.
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