WASHINGTON — The House Financial Services financial institutions subcommittee approved a bill by voice vote Thursday to rein in abusive card practices.
After changes made during debate on the legislation, the bill now largely mirrors regulations from the Federal Reserve Board and other regulators due to go into effect next year.
Under a revision by the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., the bill would go into effect a year after enactment, or by June 30, 2010, whichever came first.
Financial services industry representatives said the changes had softened their opposition to the bill.
"The changes have significantly harmonized much of the bill with a set of final regulations that is already proving challenging and costly for community banks to implement," said Jason Kratovil, a vice president of government relations with the Independent Community Bankers of America.
"Given the choice between advancing a bill like this or a bill that deviates from existing regulations, what Chairman Gutierrez has done is definitely preferable," he said.
Still, Kratovil and other industry representatives said the legislation was unnecessary.
"We appreciate the committee's decision to codify, in part, the new credit card rules recently adopted," said Ken Clayton, the senior vice president of card policy for the American Bankers Association. "We still believe it is an open question whether any further legislation is necessary."
By a vote of 18 to 17, the panel adopted an amendment by Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., that would ban companies from charging its customers to pay bills online or by phone.
Both the bill, authored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and the Fed rules would ban double-cycle billing and universal default, and they would require 45 days' notice before issuers could impose an interest rate increase.
Maloney's bill also would prohibit borrowers under 18 from acquiring cards unless they were emancipated from their parents or guardians.
It would allow borrowers to set firm caps on their credit limits, and it would ban banks from reported new credit lines to the credit bureaus until the card was activated.