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Dropping rates, fewer complaints

by Peter Andrew
Dropping rates, fewer complaints

Credit card rates have been rising for so long that many of us have forgotten that they can fall. But a reduction in interest rates was–indeed–the surprise last month for more than one million Bank of America credit card holders, according to a CNNMoney.com report.

All the big banks are likely to follow Bank of America’s lead, according to CNNMoney.com. Officials from both Discover and Chase said they were already reducing rates for many customers, the story said.

You can chalk any rate declines down to the Credit CARD Act, which calls for card issuers to reassess APRs every six months if they’ve increased rates at all since the start of 2009. And how many people with credit cards haven’t experienced a hike since then?

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The Credit CARD Act may also be behind the precipitous drop in complaints against credit card companies received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year. In 2009, credit cards were the seventh most-complained-about category. Last year, as a result of a 26 percent reduction in the number of complaints, credit card companies fell to 10th on the FTC’s most-complained-about list, according to a report on the Business Insider website.

Not everyone is so sure that the reduction in consumer complaints against credit card companies is a result of the Credit CARD Act. Saying the reason for plummeting complaints is difficult to isolate, FTC division of planning and information director David Torok speculated that it may only be because fewer consumers took the time to file a complaint, according to the Business Insider report.

…but not all of them

There was a timely reminder on Tuesday that the Credit CARD Act is not always as omnipotent as some supporters suggest. Card issuer World’s Foremost Bank recently found itself signing a “deceptive practices settlement” with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), according to a Fortune.com report.

The bank neither confirmed nor denied culpability, but agreed to refund $10 million to customers it had allegedly wrongly disadvantaged, and to pay a further $250,000 FDIC penalty. According to CNN Money, the settlement the bank signed contained three key undertakings about future conduct. Were the bank to have practiced at least two of these after the Credit CARD Act was implemented, it would have breached the law:

  1. Refrain from the Bank’s prior practice of contacting a cardholder at the cardholder’s place of employment for purposes of collecting a debt after a verbal or written request is made by either the cardholder or the cardholder’s employer to cease such contact because the cardholder’s employer prohibits such communications.
  2. Refrain from the Bank’s prior practice of assessing a penalty interest rate on balances that existed prior to the event that caused the penalty interest rate to be imposed.
  3. Refrain from the Bank’s prior practice of assessing late fees when periodic payments are due on Sundays or holidays and the payment is posted the following business day.

So maybe the CARD Act has yet to penetrate the more obscure corners of the credit card industry.

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