Credit card companies may not be ready for new restrictions if Rep. Barney Frank succeeds in pushing up their start date to January, David Nelms, Discover Financial Services' chief executive, said last week.
"There are parts of the Card Act that I don't think you could accelerate that fast," Nelms said in an interview. "It's very complicated."
Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said last week that he plans to back a bill advancing the effective date from February to hamper lenders that want to raise interest rates and fees before the law takes effect.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act limits industry practices, including double-cycle billing and "universal default," the raising of interest rates based on a missed payment with another lender.
The law also requires issuers to apply payments above the monthly minimum to higher-rate balances first, a provision that Nelms said would need extensive programming and testing.
"We are committed to being completely done by February, but some of these things I just don't see how you can accelerate any further," he said.
"The Federal Reserve, which had many of these same requirements, had a time frame of middle of next year, which is when they thought the banking system could be ready," Nelms said. The legislation pushed that date up to February, "and we were all really worried about making that date fully, but now I'm confident we can."
Frank said credit card companies are "taking advantage" of the delay by raising rates and that constituents are complaining to lawmakers. Issuers including Discover, a Riverwoods, Ill., company, have raised rates and cut back on promotional balance-transfer offers since President Obama signed the bill into law May 22.