by D. Cupples | Apparently, some of the same Republican House members who supported the egregiously credit-card-company-friendly changes in our bankruptcy laws don't want to victims to publicly speak about their nasty experiences with credit card companies.
The Washington Independent reports:
"They came to the nation’s capital this week from as far away as Denver, Chicago and Niagara Falls—five people who’d had tough experiences with their credit cards and were asked to share those tales with a House panel.
"Instead, they ran headfirst into the buzz-saw of Washington politics when the panel’s Republicans insisted the visitors allow their lenders to discuss their financial histories publicly—in any forum, at any time.
"For four of the five, it was a deal-breaker. Instead of signing the waivers (pdf) allowing them to testify Thursday, they all sat silently in the audience.
"'I didn’t want all my … information out there for just anybody,' said Denver’s Susan Wones, who saw the interest rate of her JP Morgan Chase card jump from 0 percent to 23 percent in one month last summer, without notification or explanation. 'I’m extremely upset I can’t talk about this.'"
"Marvin Weatherspoon, a grandfather from Chicago, echoed the tale. 'The waiver was very vague,' said Weatherspoon, who claims his card rate jumped from 4.25 percent to roughly 25 percent in the wake of one late payment to Bank of America. "It didn’t address the issues we were here to deal with."
"The controversy came as members of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Credit met to discuss legislation that would add a number of consumer protections to current credit card policy. Among the changes, the bill would prevent card sponsors from applying interest rate hikes to existing balances. It would also require issuers to provide 45 days notice of such hikes, and increase the minimum advance billing requirement from 14 to 25 days.
"Bill sponsor Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said her proposal will add balance to a market that has grown wildly off-kilter. 'The credit card industry has been clear about the responsibility imposed on consumers: make your minimum payments on time and stay under your limit,' Maloney said in a statement. 'But what about the reciprocal responsibility of card companies?'"
"The proposal has met considerable opposition from banks and other credit card sponsors, who argue that it would steal their power to set interest rates based on the risk of the individual card holder. Without that option, companies say, rates for everyone would rise, while many borrowers would lose their cards altogether. Most House Republicans have sided with the industry.
"'As with any government intervention in the free market,' Rep. Spencer T. Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, said in a statement, "the bill presents a real danger of restricting the range of products and services that credit card issuers currently offer." (Washington Independent)
Many congressional Republicans speak as though they're in office not to enact public policy that actually serves the public, but to take care of the various industries that fund their campaigns and dole out perks.
These sorts of public-unfriendly allegiances will continue to develop until we truly reform our campaign-finance system. It's that simple.
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