Many things in life ebb and flow. That's true for legislation and regulation, and right now, the card industry is getting a lot of political attention.
  I can't recall a time in 14 years of covering the industry when so many new laws, regulations or important court cases have been on the table all at once. Of course, there are the groundbreaking Visa/MasterCard debit card settlements with retailers. This month's Afterthoughts writer, antitrust attorney David Balto, says the retailers' lawsuit is the kind of case that comes along about once every 20 years-one that can restructure an industry (page 48).
  But that's just the start of court cases, bills, laws and new regulations keeping card-industry lawyers and lobbyists busy. Here's only a partial list:
  * Visa, MasterCard and some banks are being sued in California over currency-conversion fees on foreign transactions and their alleged failure to disclose them to cardholders. Also in California, a new law intended to combat identity theft requires companies to notify their California customers when their personal data, including card account numbers, are accessed by unauthorized persons. That could place heavy compliance requirements on merchants, merchant acquirers and other card-industry companies.
  * Congress is considering an update to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the law governing use of credit reports. And Maryland and Georgia recently passed laws to regulate credit-counseling agencies, some of which have gouged consumers with fees instead of helping them get out of debt and avoid bankruptcy (page 36). Speaking of bankruptcy, the perennial industry-backed bankruptcy-reform bill is still in Congress's hopper though it has stalled once again.
  * On the regulatory front, there's the Federal Trade Commission's new, national do-not-call registry that has the telecommunications industry howling and which could crimp card account-acquisition efforts (Card Watch, page 8). Meanwhile, prepaid card issuers are trying to figure out if they need to comply with the anti-money-laundering provisions of the USA Patriot Act (page 42). And about a year ago, federal banking regulators began a crackdown on subprime card issuers (page 40).
  There's no question that many problems and controversies related to consumer finance need resolution through the law. But lawmakers and regulators need to be mindful that too many rules and restrictions could result in less credit and less convenience for consumers.
  Farewell, Bob-This is Publisher Robert Jenisch's last month at the helm of CCM and sister publications CardLine, ATM&Debit News, Card Technology and ID Newswire. Bob is leaving for a new venture that so far he's keeping close to his vest. He started at CCM in 1993 selling advertising, and since then has been instrumental in expanding the card-industry franchise of Faulkner & Gray and its successor, Thomson Media. He also played a major role in launching Collections & Credit Risk magazine. There are few people in publishing with more integrity and drive. Good luck, Bob, and can you please leave behind the Dilbert M&M dispenser on your desk?
 

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