Financial Literacy - Credit savvy
Carolyn Maloney
credit cards
Credit cardholders have rights

Last year consumers were besieged by dire economic news, yet they also received some good tidings -- the promise of credit card reform. This year may prove to be a banner year for consumers as well, at least if Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has anything to say about it.

At a glance
Name: Carolyn Maloney
Hometown: New York City (born in Greensboro, N.C.)
Education: Greensboro College
Career highlights:
  • Appointed Chair of the Joint Economic Committee in the 111th Congress, the first woman to hold that position.
  • Elected to the House of Representatives in 1993.
  • Former co-chair of the Women's Caucus and advocate for women's and family issues.
  • Senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
  • Chair of the Financial Institution and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee.
  • Authored the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2008 and 2009.
  • Author of "Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women's Lives Aren't Getting Any Easier" published May 2008.

In February 2008, she introduced the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2008 to the House of Representatives. In September, the bill passed in the House but never made it out of the Senate. In December, regulators, including the Federal Reserve, passed a series of rules to crack down on credit issuer abuses and to strengthen consumer rights.

According to Rep. Maloney, legislation is still needed to protect consumers in a lasting and comprehensive way.

To that end, on Jan. 15, 2009, she introduced a revamped Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights to the House of Representatives in the 111th session of Congress. The bill aims to further strengthen consumer rights and speed up the protections due to take hold in 2010.

The congresswoman took some time out of her hectic schedule to share her thoughts about this bill with Bankrate.

q_v2.gifWhat led you to author the Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights?

a_v2.gifI believe in the basic principle that a deal is a deal. However, too often in the credit card industry, consumers have found themselves on the short end of the stick, stuck with contracts that could change at any time and for any reason.

In a hope to return to basic fairness, I wrote the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights.

This bill levels the playing field for consumers by protecting them from arbitrary rate increases on their existing balances and ends the most abusive practices currently implemented by the industry.

q_v2.gifWhy did Congress drag its heels in implementing reforms that protect consumers?

a_v2.gifWhile the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights failed to be enacted into law last year, we were successful in passing it in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 312 to 112.

In the end, I believe other issues in the larger economy took the spotlight away from the needed attention required to pass this legislation in the Senate.

q_v2.gifHow is it that the credit card industry has gotten away with abusive practices for so many years?

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a_v2.gifI believe that there has been a general attitude that through competition and the free market system, much of the financial world would regulate itself.

What we have found in the credit card industry, based upon consolidation of the industry and the complexity of consumer disclosures, is that many of these practices became unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive. When that happens, it is up to the government to fix the market failure.

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