Econ Czar Bored to Sleep by Credit Card Confab

Many have described president Barack Obama as a masterful and engaging orator -- but not this guy.

As the president talked on and on about protecting consumers from credit card company trickery Thursday, top economic aide Larry Summers couldn't resist the call to slumber, napping openly during a chit chat with the press.

Summers, the White House National Economic Council Director, was caught resting his eyes while Obama said his administration is determined to get a credit-card law that eliminates tricky fine print, sudden rate increases and late fees that give millions of consumers headaches.

"I trust that those in the industry who want to act responsibly will engage with us in a constructive fashion, and that we're going to get this done in short order," Obama said, delivering a pointed message to leading executives of credit-card issuing companies seated at his side.

Both the House and the Senate are pursuing bills to give consumers greater protections. Obama said his economic advisers will examine the various proposals and work with Congress and the industry, but he made clear he intends to sign a law.

At issue is how to protect consumers, particularly in a severe recession, while not imposing the kind of rules that could make it harder for banks to offer credit or put credit out of reach for many borrowers. Industry advocates are wary of those consequences and hopeful Obama will listen.

Obama outlined the principles he wants in any legislation: Protections so that consumers won't face sudden, surprising jumps in fees; requirements that companies publish their forms in plainspoken language, with no more fine print; the availability of customer-friendly comparison shopping on credit-card offers; and greater enforcement so that violators feel the "full weight" of the law.

The president also acknowledged the importance of credit cards; almost 80 percent of U.S. households have one. Credit cards often serve as a vital source of liquidity, both for individuals and small businesses.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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