Australia's credit card woes mirror ours at home

When it comes to credit card regulation, American policymakers soon could be peering Down Under for a model or a cautionary tale -- or both -- when it comes to reigning in fees and some of the unintended consequences that can result.

In a twist on the usual tale of fee-plagued consumers, the New York Times highlights the fees credit card companies slap on merchants - and exposes how a well meaning attempt to curb those fees via legislation has led to merchants sticking their customers with added charges instead.

At issue are a host of charges credit-card companies charge merchants for the privilege of accepting credit cards. The charges are nominally small, generally just a penny or two, but they add up to big bucks for the banks that issue the cards -- and big losses for the merchants.