WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve and other regulators are moving Friday to crack down on "unfair and deceptive" practices in the credit card industry that have added billions in debt to people already struggling to cope with the economic downturn.
In the most far-reaching crackdown on the credit industry in decades, the Fed and two government agencies are proposing rules that would stop credit card companies from unfairly raising interest rates and make sure they give people enough time to pay their bills.
The banking industry is expected to fight the new rules.
Travis Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, said that while he hadn't yet seen the details, the rules "appear to address some of the most significant abuses in the credit card marketplace right now."
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has introduced legislation to protect consumers from credit card abuse, said in a statement that she was pleased the Fed had adopted some aspects of her legislation.
But she also expressed concern that "by the time the Fed gets around to finalizing these credit card reform proposals, they will be watered down and come too little too late for consumers who need relief now."
The Fed has been criticized for moving too slowly to respond to abuses leading to the subprime mortgage crisis.
The agencies said the new regulations could be finalized by the end of the year.
Plunkett said his group estimates that credit card debt is now about $850 billion, with households that don't pay their credit card bills in full every month owing an average $17,000.
The proposed new rules that would prohibit:
Placing unfair time constraints on payments. A payment could not be deemed late unless the borrower is given a reasonable period of time, such as 21 days, to pay;
Unfairly allocating payments among balances with different interest rates;
Unfairly raising annual percentage rates on outstanding balances;
Placing too-high fees for exceeding the credit limit solely because of a hold placed on the account;
Unfairly computing balances;
Unfairly adding security deposits and fees for issuing credit or making credit available;
Making deceptive offers of credit.
In news releases, the agencies said the proposed rules also would require federal credit unions to give consumers a chance to opt out of an overdraft protection program. And they would prohibit those institutions from charging a fee for an overdraft caused by a hold placed on consumer's funds when a person uses a debit card.
The Fed, which is expected to vote Friday afternoon on its approval of the proposed rules, is acting in conjunction with the National Credit Union Administration and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Ken Clayton, senior vice president of card policy for the American Bankers Association, said the industry will fight the new proposals, describing them as "aggressive regulatory intervention in the marketplace that will result in higher prices and less consumer credit."
He said the change "basically says that we can't price for risk" and that if higher risk borrowers don't bear the costs, those costs will be passed along to other consumers.
Associated Press Writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.
The proposed rules will be available at 2:30 EDT at:
National Credit Union Administration: http://www.ncua.gov/RegulationsOpinionsLaws/proposed-regs.html
whenever possible and keep your record clean.
same scam; practiced by the same players to keep you working for them.
Everybody seems to be afraid to call it what it is. Fraud.
money is fraud. Charging you fees and collecting them solidifies the fraud.
Shoot for getting out of debt if you can. You will be amazed how much you enjoy life right down to sleeping at night. Paying cash for whatever it is you want gives you power.
The people running these scams are no doubt trying to keep you in their clutches for the rest of your life working for them to feed the greed.