Fees charged by credit card issuers would be limited under legislation introduced Tuesday by Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-N.Y.
The Consumer Credit Card Protection Amendments of 1999 would bar lenders from fining people who pay in full each month; issuers also could not cancel these accounts.
The legislation also proposes significant changes to required disclosures. For example, on monthly statements lenders would have to note the total cost and the number of months it would take to pay off an account if the consumer only paid the minimum required.
The due date and fee charged for late payments would have to be highlighted on monthly account statements. Cards could not be issued to people under 21 years of age without the co-signature of a legal guardian or evidence the minor has an independent means for repaying debt.
At a press conference, Rep. LaFalce, the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee, said credit card issuers are entrapping consumers, adding unnecessary costs, and discouraging responsible use of credit. "Fees and penalties have replaced interest earnings as the principal source of earnings for card issuers," he said. "Consumers need complete and accurate information to make informed decisions about credit card offers."
Visa U.S.A. spokesman Michael J. McGarry said the industry is adjusting to the Federal Reserve Board's new Regulation Z guidelines, which implement the Truth-in-Lending Act.
"There's no need to legislate price restrictions on what is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in this country," he said. "Let's see how the Fed's rule unfolds before rushing to legislate."