The credit card industry cannot afford to wait for regulators and legislators to act to reverse the unprecedented wave of negative consumer perception surrounding it, Jim McCarthy, head of North American financial institution sales for Visa Inc., said today during the keynote address at the 21st Annual Card Forum and Expo in Marco Island, Fla. Beyond the tough economic issues the industry faces this year, "there is also a lot of anger out there from consumers, legislators and regulators" toward the credit card industry about proliferation of practices that many consumers and lawmakers consider unfair. McCarthy said these practices prompted the Federal Reserve to adopt new industry rules that go into effect next year. He suggested issuers should take more immediate action to "self-police" their policies to become more consumer-friendly, to avoid legislative action that would be even more egregious than the Fed's new rules. "Until we fix this [negative image], the regulators and legislators will ... drive change in ways that might not be good for us," McCarthy said. Issuers should try to rebuild consumer trust by improving credit and debit products, enhancing the disclosure of card rates and fees, and using technology to develop new products that "put consumers more in control," he suggested. Examples include card products with alerts and other features that help consumers avoid over-limit and late fees. McCarthy said that the economic downturn will permanently reshape the card industry. "I think that the products we offer will be different and we'll market them differently."

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