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The Federal Reserve Board received more comments on proposed rules changes for the credit card industry than it has received on any other issue. The approximately 56,000 public comments received by yesterday's deadline far exceeded the previous high of approximately 45,000 comments the Fed received in March 2001 regarding a proposal to permit financial holding companies to act as real-estate brokers and managers, according to a Fed spokesperson. The Fed, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration in May proposed Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices rules under the Federal Trade Commission Act that would prohibit many longstanding card-industry practices. The proposed rules would forbid raising cardholders' interest rates on existing balances except in special circumstances and would prohibit billing cardholders for interest calculated on charges made during previous billing cycles. The new rules also would require issuers to post payments first to cardholders' highest-interest balances. Consumers demanding change and complaining about unexpected interest-rate increases and mushrooming late fees represented the vast majority of comments. Major card issuers also filed their responses, most of them dated yesterday. In its 61-page comment, Bank of America Corp. wrote that the rule-change proposal would "have a broad impact on the economy, both at the retail level and in highly complex securitization markets, slowing [credit card industry] growth and limiting access to financing." JPMorgan Chase & Co. wrote in its 33-page comment that it has a "substantial concern that these effects will ultimately work to the detriment of [our] consumers." Capital One Financial Corp. wrote in its 24-page comment that it believes "that several of the specific provisions of the proposal are ill-advised and unnecessarily restrictive, sacrificing legitimate and beneficial consumer choice and empowerment on the altar of dubious notions of 'fairness.'" The Fed in May said it hopes to put the new rules into effect before the end of this year.

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