Visa U.S.A. on Monday predicted consumer bankruptcy filings, which hit an all-time high of 1.3 million last year, will rise nearly 69% by 2001.
The card association, which based its study on historical trends, projected personal filings will top 1.35 million this year, 1.42 million in 1999, 1.75 million in 2000, and 2.2 million in 2001.
"This means for the industry that we have to focus on fraud and abuse in the system," said Kenneth R. Crone, Visa's senior vice president for issuer risk. "We need to challenge those bankruptcies and not let them go through."
Consumer advocates blamed the credit card industry for the record filings. "Bankruptcies will remain high as long as lenders continue to lend indiscriminately," said Gary Klein, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston. "With 3.2 billion credit solicitations, of course the industry is reaching some people with credit problems."
Visa used the projects to bolster its call for needs-based bankruptcy reform. "The billions of dollars lost due to personal bankruptcies are passed on to all consumers," Mr. Crone said.
The Senate is expected to vote on a bill next week that would give judges greater discretion to force consumers to repay some unsecured debts. The House passed a bill in June that would use a formula based on income and living expenses to determine if consumers eliminate unsecured debts in Chapter 7 or repay them in Chapter 13.