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The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 637, the Credit Card Bill of Rights, by a margin of 357 to 70.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who cosponsored the bill with finance committee chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), called the vote a triumph at a press conference this afternoon, saying, “It shows both Democrats and Republicans heard the message from constituents that there’s a great need for credit card reform.”
The final bill bans retroactive interest rate increases on existing balances and double-cycle billing; outlaws credit cards to minors under the age of 18, prohibits credit card companies from imposing fees when consumers pay their bills on time, and allows cardholders to set a lower credit limit. Other provisions include a requirement that companies mail statements 21 days before the due date and give 45 days’ notice before raising rates.
“Right now the issuers make all of the decisions; it’s very unbalanced [and] all on one side,” said Maloney. “With what other contract in the country can one side make the decisions and change the terms at any time, any reason? The fairness of this bill was reflected in strong bipartisan vote we had on the floor.”
House lawmakers believe that the level of bipartisanship support behind the bill will increase support for credit card reform in the Senate. Frank estimates the Senate will vote on its companion legislation by late summer or early fall.
Most of the changes in the final bill that will be signed by President Barack Obama are scheduled to go into effect in July 2010. If, however, credit card issuers try to take advantage of consumers in the interim period, Frank warned that the bill would go into effect sooner.
Frank also said that the broad support the bill got today argues well for future regulation bills designed to protect consumers. He pointed to the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2009 approved by the financial services committee on Wednesday, as an example.