WASHINGTON California Gov. Gray Davis on Friday vetoed legislation that would have required credit card issuers to notify customers each month how long it would take them to pay off their balances when making only the minimum payment and how much it would cost to do so.
Industry officials who opposed the legislation argued that the figures would be expensive to calculate and would only help the 1% to 2% of customers who regularly make only minimum payments.
But banking lobbyists failed to persuade Gov. Davis to veto two other bills: one that will require lenders to disclose credit scores to loan applicants, and another that contains new privacy protections.
In a letter to state lawmakers explaining his veto of the minimum payment disclosure bill, Gov. Davis echoed industry arguments.
While this bill is well-intentioned, it cast too broad a net by requiring detailed information to a vast number of consumers who are not minimum payers, thus adding extra cost to consumers credit, he wrote. In fact, more than 30% of cardholders routinely pay the entire balance every month.
The governor did, however, invite the California Legislature to adopt a narrower version of the bill next year.
The underlying intent of the bill, to provide minimum payers notice of how much their credit costs and how long it will take to pay off, is laudable. It is sound public policy to disclose to consumers the amount of debt they can incur, he wrote. He added that he would support a bill that that targets these consumers by requiring that card issuers provide a toll-free telephone number to offer minimum payment information and other account assistance.
Greg Wilhelm, director of government relations at the California Bankers Association, said the alternative legislation Gov. Davis described is one I think the industry could live with.
Gov. Davis on Saturday signed into law a bill that will require lenders to give customers a copy of the credit score obtained in the process of soliciting a loan or accepting a loan application.
Industry representatives say compliance with the law, which takes effect July 1, will be difficult because it is too vague.
Maurine Padden, the bankers associations senior legislative counsel, said it is unclear what the law defines as a credit score and exactly when lenders are supposed to provide it. The only way it is going to get interpreted is by banks getting sued for violating the act, she said.
Gov. Davis also signed a bill that will, after Jan. 1, require credit card issuers to give customers a chance to block, or opt out of, the distribution of information on their spending patterns to the issuers affiliates or third parties.
Though industry lobbyists had opposed the bill, they said its enactment is not a crushing blow because it is similar to existing California law. More comforting to the industry is a provision in the law exempting companies from complying with it if they comply with federal privacy requirements such as those in the Fair Credit Reporting and Gramm-Leach-Bliley acts.
The new law requires companies, starting Jan. 1, to give customers two ways to opt out: a form they could mail back and a toll-free telephone number. Companies currently can choose between the form or the number.