Obama Administration rep talks about the new credit card rules

Well, the CARD Act is finally here, and CreditCards.com hosted a video town hall meeting today with a White House Administration representative to talk about the new credit card rules and answer questions about how the legislation will affect consumers.

Most of the town hall was devoted to Q&A. People sent in their questions via the site or Twitter, and the government rep, White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, did his best to answer them. He called the passage of the new credit card rules a good day for the American consumer, and said that the new rules would change the balance of power between consumers and the credit card companies.

In perusing the questions, one thing that became crystal clear is that Americans are confused, frustrated and angry with their credit card companies for everything from changing the rules to raising their rates to explaining the terms of their cards in complicated legalese. "Some companies have tried to turn sneaky fees into a business model," Goolsbee said. He told people listening to the town hall meeting that the new credit card rules would put a stop to that.

Some people voiced skepticism, though, that the new rules would be enforced or expressed worries that the card companies would just exploit loopholes in the system to continue taking advantage of customers. To that, Goolsbee replied that the government would be engaging in a "new style of enforcement," adding, "[We're] definitely keeping a watchful eye on maintaining the balance of power" between card companies and their customers. This concern about enforcement is why consumer advocacy group US-PIRG recently spoke out (and spoke to WalletPop!) about the pressing need for a Consumer Finance Protection Agency to accompany the new credit card rules.

WalletPop (along with several other participants) asked Goolsbee why the new credit card rules didn't just institute a rate cap, limiting how much interest credit card companies can charge people. His reply, frankly, left a little to be desired. It was basically a non-answer about how the government wasn't getting involved in deciding who is and who isn't credit-worthy.

Then Goodsbee patted the Administration on the back for getting the new rules enacted in the first place and pointed out that consumers who don't want an interest rate increase can just cancel their card (which only works if you don't actually need that line of credit, which, sadly, isn't a choice many Americans can make these days).

Overall, we here at WalletPop learned some new things from the town hall meeting. For instance, if you think your credit card issuer isn't following the new rules, go to helpwithmybank.gov to lodge a complaint. And don't forget to read every scrap of mail your card issuer sends you, because now they're required to disclose major changes 45 days in advance.

But we're still a little peeved that this long-ballyhooed legislation doesn't fix a few big, fundamental gripes many of us have about our credit cards.
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