WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve has provided relief for credit-card users against late-payment penalties and rate increases.

The Fed on Tuesday approved rules involving a law passed by Congress last year to protect card holders. The provisions will go into effect in August.

"The new rules require that late payment and other penalty fees be assessed in a way that is fairer and generally less costly for consumers," Fed Governor Elizabeth A. Duke said.

The final rule prohibits credit-card issuers from charging a penalty fee of more than $25 for paying late or otherwise violating the account's terms, unless the consumer has made repeated violations.

It also prohibits issuers from charging penalty fees that exceed the dollar amount of the violation. "Issuers will no longer be permitted to charge a $39 fee when a consumer is late making a $20 minimum payment," the Fed said. "Instead, the fee cannot exceed $20."

The rule also bans inactivity fees.

And it requires issuers who hiked rates since Jan. 1, 2009, to evaluate reasons for the increase and, if appropriate, reduce the rate."

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