Consumer Regulator Must Oversee Credit Reports to Fulfill Obama’s Pledge Against Unfair Rate Hikes & Penalties
Washington, D.C. — Congress must restore the ability of a proposed consumer financial regulator to oversee consumer credit reporting companies in order to fulfill President Obama’s pledge Friday that the new Agency will have the ability to protect credit card consumers from “unfair rate hikes, penalties or hidden charges,” Consumer Watchdog said today.
The Big Three consumer credit reporting agencies, Experian, EquiFax and TransUnion, gave $1.65 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress since the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, received $40,000 from the three companies.
Recent amendments from Chairman Frank to legislation creating the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) would exempt from its jurisdiction companies that collect consumer financial data that is used to change the terms, and cost, of consumer credit.
“The President pledged that a new consumer regulator will rein in unfair credit card rate hikes and penalties. But companies that collect, analyze and sell our private financial information are off the hook in the current bill,” said Carmen Balber, Washington Director for Consumer Watchdog. “$1.6 million in campaign contributions to Congress should not buy the Big Three data collectors an exemption from oversight.”
Among the other credit transactions singled out for exemption in the current draft legislation are auto and home buyers steered into high-cost financing by realtors and car dealers, and private loans to students at for-profit colleges, where default rates can be 50% or higher. The CFPA will not be able to protect consumers from a wide range of abusive lending practices if whole industries are freed from oversight, said Consumer Watchdog.
CNN and other networks recently reported that Kevin Johnson’s credit card company lowered his credit line by $6,200 based in part on where he shops. The letter from American Express informed Johnson that they were lowering his credit limit because: “Other customers who’ve used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”
“A consumer penalized by his credit card company based on where he shops is just the kind of behavior that a consumer financial regulator should have the power to investigate, but will be barred from responding to if Congress gives credit reporting companies a pass,” said Balber.
Credit Reporting Companies’ Contributions to Congress:
2002-2010 election cycles
Download consumer groups’ letters to the committee on the exclusion of auto, student and home loans at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cfpaautoloan.pdf
A House Financial Services Committee markup of the legislation is scheduled for as early as Wednesday, October 14.
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Consumer Watchdog is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us online at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org