Credit card agreements should be written in easy-to-understand language - not in small-print legal jargon. Consumers can make smarter choices about credit card usage when they understand what they are reading, but, right now, credit card companies hide costly fees by issuing incomprehensible contracts.
And, throughout the country, we're seeing middle-class families struggling to climb out of credit card debt. Americans owe a total of $693 billion in credit card debt - with an average balance of $1,809 per household. All who use credit cards should do so responsibly. But responsibility should also extend to the credit card issuers, and that means they should not hide behind small print and pages and pages of legal jargon to disguise from consumers the interest rates, penalties and fees they may face.
For decades, major credit card companies have extracted extraordinary profits from consumers who may not understand the terms and conditions of lengthy credit card agreements. Big banks have hidden unfair credit card terms in language only a contract lawyer can decipher. And without notice, big businesses have raised interest rates or imposed penalties. Americans deserve a consumer cop on the beat who is not marching to the orders of Wall Street executives.
Complex credit card agreements often translate to unsustainable levels of consumer debt and unchecked profits for big credit card companies.
For too long, these special interests have yielded too much power. They employ high power lobbyists who protect the status quo. And largely, they've gotten their way.
Until now. In 2009, I fought to pass the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) aimed at keeping banks and credit card companies from nickel and diming hard-working Americans and underage consumers. The CARD Act already has helped stem the longstanding practice of hiking interest rates on existing cardholders, reduce the amount of late fees consumers are charged and curtail the abuse of over draft fees. The CARD Act also requires a credit card company to notify a consumer 45 days in advance of a scheduled interest rate increase or other significant change to the terms of the card and provide that cardholder with the chance to cancel the card before the change occurs.
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