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House panel approves credit card bill
WASHINGTON (4/23/09)--The House Financial Services Committee Wednesday voted 48 to 19 in favor of a credit card best practices bill that, in most areas, tracks regulatory changes that go into effect next July. The Senate Banking Committee approved a similar bill (S. 414) in March and if adopted by both the full House and Senate and signed into law, the legislation would serve to back up the regulators’ prohibitions on abusive and deceptive card practices. Both the regulators’ rules and the House and Senate bills would ban double-cycle billing, universal default and prolonged payment periods. However, the bills go a bit further in what they address. For instance, the lawmakers’ plans would provide greater protections for underage consumers and would limit some fees. On April 2, the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions approved the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 627) by voice vote. As the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) testified at a hearing a few weeks before the subcommittee vote, credit unions back the intent of legislation to protect consumers from abusive and deceptive practices. However, CUNA urged that any new law create an equitable balance between those protections and the needs of providers to be fairly compensated for the service and not subjected to unnecessary regulatory burdens. CUNA contacted Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee, just prior to the vote to support amendments to the bill that would be beneficial to credit unions. CUNA noted in the letter that the bill would require creditors to provide cardholders, in each periodic statement, a telephone number, Internet address, and website address at which the cardholder may request the payoff balance on the account. Most credit unions already provide a telephone number but should not be required to also provide an Internet address and website since not all credit unions have interactive Internet capabilities, CUNA said. CUNA also supported a successful amendment to the bill that extended the legislation's effective date from three months to one year after enactment or June 1, 2010--whichever comes first.
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