Politics & Media
Apr 30, 2009, 12:21PM

"The Banks, Frankly They Own the Place."

Or so says Sen. Dick Durbin. 

The ongoing negotiations about credit card reform legislation nicely illustrate Durbin's point. According to Hill sources, the U.S. House of Representatives is likely to vote on H.R. 627,otherwise known as the Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights Act as early as Thursday. But it doesn't seem likely that the federal bill will be implemented quickly enough to help strapped consumers this year. For that, we can thank the banks.Last year, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) proposed the bill of rights as a way to clean up this unregulated industry. The bill would stop credit card c ompanies from raising interest rates on balances incurred under an old rate, would let consumers pay off loans with higher interest rates first, and would stop unfair late fees and “universal default” (the odious practice of raising interest rates on accounts in good standing when a borrower falls behind on other bills). While the bill eventually died in the Senate, Maloney reintroduced a similar version again this year and it has since passed the House Financial Services Committee.But there's a catch. Originally, Maloney's bill required the banks to change their practices 90 days after passage. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers (including Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a recent thorn in the side of consumer groups) amended the bill earlier this month, pushing the effective date to either 12 months after passage or July 1, 2010. This had been a demand put forth by the financial services industry, which claimed that the changes would necessitate countless hours to implement. Why is that important? The Federal Reserve passed new credit card rules in December that are scheduled to take hold in ...  July 2010, rendering the Congressional legislation rather meaningless. When the Fed announced its changes, Democrats decried the extended timeline. But all it took was pressure from the banks to change their tune. And that will have a painful effect on consumers in the interim, as the Washington Independent's Mike Lillis writes.


Register or Login to leave a comment