Penalty fees collected from credit card users plunged by nearly 50% between 2009 and 2013, according to new research by an industry consultant.

The card industry collected $12 billion in penalty fees last year, down from $22.9 billion in 2009, the consulting firm R.K. Hammer said in a report released Monday. Its explanation for the 48% decline: the implementation of the Card Act, a law passed by Congress that places new restrictions on the ability of card issuers to charge penalty fees. The law was passed in 2009, mostly took effect in 2010 and, in each year since, penalty fees have fallen, according to the data.

Penalty fees include fees for late payments, for exceeding one's credit limit, and for not having sufficient funds to pay one's monthly bill.

"Year-over-year growth of penalty fees hit a wall four years ago," Bob Hammer, the company's founder and chief executive officer, says in a news release.

He adds that credit card companies have added new fees to help make up for some of the lost penalty fees. The new fees include payments for making a certain number of customer service calls in a given bill cycle, for choosing to receive paper statements, and for having inactive account.

"We know of no card issuer not presently weighing its fee pricing options," Hammer said.

The new findings are in line with a report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in October. That report found that over-limit fees have been effectively eliminated, and the size of late fees have declined, since the law took effect.

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