A new piece of legislation was recently signed into law that has credit card companies in its crosshairs. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 aims to protect credit card holders from unnecessary interest rate hikes, finance charge increases and other unfair practices that ran rampant in the past.
The act — signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 22 — amends the Truth in Lending Act to prohibit creditors from increasing the annual percentage rate of interest (APR) to an existing credit card balance unless specified conditions are met. Additionally, creditors are prohibited from extending a line of credit to consumers under age 18, unless they’re emancipated under state law, or the consumer's parent or legal guardian is designated as the primary account holder.
According to bill sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) website other notable provisions include:
- Prevents cardholders who pay on time from being unfairly penalized.
- Protects cardholders from due date gimmicks.
- Shields cardholders from misleading terms.
- Empowers cardholders to set limits on their credit.
- Requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments.
- Prohibits card companies from imposing excessive fees on cardholders.
- Prevents card companies from giving subprime credit cards to people who can’t afford them.
- Requires Congress to provide better oversight of the credit card industry.
Consumer advocate organizations and lawmakers applaud the signing of the bill of rights. The Center for Responsible Lending released a statement the day President Obama signed the act stating:
“The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights arrives just in time. If deceptive credit card activities continued unchecked — as with subprime mortgages — the results would be even more devastating for borrowers and an economy already struggling to avoid financial ruin.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine also commended the move to protect credit card holders, calling the bill “comprehensive reform” that will “make it easier for Americans to pay down their debt and empower consumers to understand the terms of the credit card agreements.”
The new regulations won’t go into effect until the summer of 2010, which according to some financial experts, gives creditors time to hike up interest rates before they have to abide by the new regulations. However, Maloney has a way for consumers to register complaints if credit card issuers continue unfair practices.
Maloney proposed The Banking Hotline bill (HR 1455), which will establish a single toll-free number and website to help consumers register complaints about their banks.