WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Committee, in a slap to the credit card industry, on Thursday voted to move up by two months the effective date of strict new rules reining in the industry.
Under the legislation, the rules, enacted in May in what amounts to the most sweeping overhaul of credit card regulations in decades, will now take effect on Dec. 1 rather than Feb. 1.
The new effective date wouldn't apply to card issuers with fewer than 2 million credit cards in circulation or to gift card issuers, thanks to amendments approved by the panel.
The House Financial Services Committee passed the measure on a voice vote, over the objections of panel Republicans. The full House and Senate must still vote on the legislation.
Lawmakers have been angered by reports that credit card firms have been hiking fees and rates ahead of the new rules, signed into law in May.
"The card companies brought this on themselves by using the time between when the bill was signed by President Obama and when it goes into effect to 'get in under the wire' with a last gasp of unfair practices," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D- N.Y., said in a statement. Maloney sponsored the legislation along with House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned earlier this week that an earlier date could hurt small credit card issuers. In a letter to Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., he said such issuers needed "sufficient time for implementation to allow for an orderly transition and to avoid unintended consequences, compliance difficulties and potential liabilities."
However, he said moving up the effective date would mean that "consumers would receive important benefits and protections earlier."
Some provisions of the new credit card law have already taken effect, including a requirement that issuers give consumers 45 days' notice before raising their interest rate.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., offered and then withdrew an alternative proposal that would have put a moratorium on interest rate increases until the new rules are fully implemented. She said she had serious concerns with moving up the effective date.
The panel rejected a Republican proposal that would have required the Federal Reserve to certify within one week that the industry could handle the earlier effective date.
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., a sponsor of that measure, said card issuers "simply cannot accommodate these changes so quickly."