Give The Man Some Credit

Putting himself on the side of fuming consumers, President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to send him legislation by Memorial Day that would put a tighter rein on the credit card industry.

"Americans know that they have a responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday. "But they also have a right to not get ripped off by the sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees that have become all-too common."

Obama has prominently lobbied for a bill calling for a credit card crackdown. It already has cleared the House and awaits action in the Senate.

"I'm calling on Congress ... to pass a credit card reform bill that protects American consumers so that I can sign it into law by Memorial Day," Obama said. "There is no time for delay. We need a durable and successful flow of credit in our economy, but we can't tolerate profits that depend upon misleading working families. Those days are over."

But there's no certainty Congress will deliver by the end of the month.

The banking community is fighting back. Credit-card executives maintain that new restrictions could backfire on consumers, making it harder for banks to offer credit or put credit out of reach for many borrowers. They also contend that the sweeping rules already ordered by the Federal Reserve, beginning next year, address many of the consumer-protection concerns expressed by the president and members of Congress.

The bill's boosters are tapping into public anger over corporate excesses and the conduct of companies receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

The House measure, called the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights, passed on a bipartisan vote of 357-70 following lobbying by the Obama administration. It would prohibit so-called double-cycle billing and retroactive rate hikes and would prevent companies from giving credit cards to anyone under 18.

If they become law, the new House provisions won't take effect for a year, except for a requirement that customers get 45 days' notice before their interest rates are increased. That would take effect in 90 days.

Obama spoke to the public's frustration with credit cards.

"You shouldn't have to fear that any new credit card is going to come with strings attached, nor should you need a magnifying glass and a reference book to read a credit card application," Obama said. "And the abuses in our credit card industry have only multiplied in the midst of this recession, when Americans can least afford to bear an extra burden."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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