The federal consumer watchdog is asking for public opinion on the effects of recent credit card legislation.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday it is now taking comments from consumers, the credit card industry and consumer advocates about the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. The act banned some industry practices and imposed sweeping changes to the way credit cards set their terms.
The CFPB is specifically seeking information on the following:
- The terms of credit card agreements and practices by card issuers.
- The effect of protections against unfair and or deceptive practices.
- The changes in cost or availability of credit.
- The practice of setting the credit card terms based on an applicant's creditworthiness.
The public inquiry follows a similar survey conducted by the federal government in February 2011, a year after many of the act's provisions were enacted. That study found that the act reduced the practice of hiking interest rates on existing accounts with little or no warning. It also found that the act curtailed consumer late fees and nearly got rid of over-the-limit fees.
The CFPB's new inquiry will probably find that average interest rates have increased almost 2 percentage points since the CARD Act went into effect, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
At the end of January 2010, before the first provisions of the act went into effect, the average annual percentage rate for variable-rate credit cards was 12.25 percent and 12.1 percent for fixed-rate cards, according to Bankrate's weekly survey. This week, the average APR for variable-rate cards was 14.59 percent and was 14.02 percent for fixed-rate cards, Bankrate found.
"I don't want to blame the CARD Act, but it is a contributing factor because of the elimination of revenue-generating practices," Ulzheimer says. "Increasing the interest rate increases revenue. A dollar is a dollar no matter where it comes from."
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