Credit Card Bill on Tap for U.S. Senate Panel

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Credit Card Bill on Tap for U.S. Senate Panel

WASHINGTON -- Key congressional panels are set to meet this week to discuss and craft credit card legislation to deter unfair and deceptive practices leading to consumers' unexpected fees and rate hikes, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will meet March 31 to consider pro-consumer "Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009" legislation, sources with direct knowledge of the plan told Reuters last week.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Financial Services subcommittee is planning to consider similar legislation April 1, a committee aide told the news service last week.

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Credit card reform has broad support in the House, which is firmly controlled by Democrats, but support for such reforms is less clear in the closely divided Senate, according to the report.

The Senate Banking Committee session will consider a bill introduced earlier this year by Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, the report stated. Reforms could result in lower revenues for credit card issuers, companies that are already suffering from the financial crisis, Reuters reported.

"The credit card companies have brought this on themselves," Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told Reuters.

Last year, the Federal Reserve adopted rules to clean up what Chairman Ben Bernanke called unfair and deceptive practices. The rules prohibit certain billing practices, give card holders more notice when interest rates will increase and provide clearer disclosures.

Dodd's bill would prohibit the same practices, but consumer groups considered it stronger and more comprehensive. His bill would prohibit credit card solicitations to consumers under the age of 21 without parental or guardian consent, as well as prevent a card company from unilaterally changing the terms, a provision called "any-time, any reason," the report stated.

And convenience store retailers will support another provision that calls on congressional audit group the Government Accountability Office, to study the effects of interchange fees on consumers and merchants.

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