Fed OKs rules to protect credit card users from extreme fees - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Fed OKs rules to protect credit card users from extreme fees

By Jeannine Aversa
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve adopted new rules Tuesday aimed at protecting credit card customers from getting socked by excessive late-payment charges and other penalty fees.

The rules respond to public and congressional outrage over practices by credit card companies.

Under the new rules, credit card companies are barred from charging a penalty fee of more than $25 for paying a bill late. The rules prohibit credit card companies from charging penalty fees that are higher than the dollar amount associated with the customer's violation. They also ban so-called "inactivity" fees when customers don't use the account to make new purchases, and they prevent multiple penalty fees on a single late payment.

The rules take effect Aug. 22. "Consumers will finally be protected from the worst credit card-issuer abuses," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N. Y.,a major advocate for the changes.

In addition, the rules require companies to reconsider interest rates imposed on customers since the start of last year. Some lenders pushed through rate increases ahead of the first phase of sweeping new credit card protections, which took effect earlier this year. That first set of rules was designed to protect customers from sudden increases in interest rates.

Congress directed the Fed to implement the new credit card protections in legislation signed into law by President Obama last year.

"The new rules require that late-payment and other penalty fees be assessed in a way that is fairer and generally less costly for consumers," said Elizabeth A. Duke, a Fed governor who is the central bank's point person on the rules. "Card issuers must also reevaluate recent interest rate increases and, if appropriate, reduce the rate."

The American Bankers Association said the industry intends to "work quickly and diligently" to implement the new provisions.

Legislation in Congress revamping the nation's financial regulatory structure could reduce the Fed's influence over consumer protections.

A Senate-passed bill would house a watchdog agency inside the Fed, but Chairman Ben S. Bernanke would have no authority over it. A Housepassed bill would set up a new agency devoted to consumer protection and would strip the Fed of some of its consumer oversight.

Lawmakers are working to reconcile the bills into final legislation.

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