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|October 9-15, 2008
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Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights
by Jim Hightower
It’s hard to feel much love for bankers, but they’re sure not helping themselves right now. Even as they’ve been clamoring for a massive bailout from you and me, they’ve been lobbying furiously in Washington to kill a bill that would make them give a small break to us.
It’s called the “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” and it would put a halt to some of the nastiest tactics that these credit-card hucksters use against their own customers. For example, they now jack up the interest rate on our cards whenever they feel like it — Bam! — the rate can jump from 16 percent to 21 percent overnight, and we don’t even know about it. The Bill of Rights, however, would make them have the courtesy to give us a 45-day notice.
Another, especially-annoying gouge is the late-fee surprise attack. Many times, your monthly bill arrives only a few days before it’s due. If you’re ill, traveling or otherwise unable to jump right on it — Bam, again! — you’re socked with a hefty late fee. Rather than mailing our bills only 14 days before the due date, as banks now do, the Bill of Rights more reasonably requires that they mail bills to us 25 days before they are due.
These steps of simple fairness do not impose any unbearable burdens on the banking behemoths, and — who knows? — the changes might even cause customers to view credit card issuers as something slightly friendlier than profit-grubbing predators.
But, oh, the bankers are in full howl against this attempt to impose even a basic level of corporate civility toward consumers. Incredibly, they’ve labeled the bill “unfair” — even as they count their billions in bailout funds taken from our pockets.
Despite their army of lobbyists, however, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
For information, contact Consumer Federation of America: 202-387-6121.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown — visit www.jimhightower.com.
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