Udall Spearheads Credit Card Reform Fight

Great piece from 9NEWS yesterday on what’s otherwise a curiously underreported story here in Colorado:

Susan Wones is about as far removed from the political spotlight of Washington, D.C. as you can get, but if Congress moves to reform how credit card companies do business, her fingerprints will be on that change.

Three years ago, Wones’ credit card nightmare started the same way as it has for many Americans.

“It was an introductory zero percent and all of a sudden, after the introductory period, I had one month and then it was jacked up to 32 percent,” Wones said…

“That story alone motivated me to step in and say enough is enough,” Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) said.

He asked Wones to help him pass the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights by testifying before a House Committee. For Wones, becoming entangled in the political process was foreign territory, but she was motivated to bring change.

“I’ve had so many people come up to me and tell me their stories and tell me what they’ve been through,” Wones said. “It made me want to fight.”

When Wones did testify before Congress, her credit card company had one more surprise for her.

“Then when she came to Congress to testify as to her experience and her situation with the credit card industry, they didn’t treat her very appropriately,” Udall said. “They released her private personal financial records.”

Reforming the notoriously unfair practices of consumer credit card companies is a huge story right now with President Obama having publicly weighed in over the last couple of days, but Rep.–now Sen.–Mark Udall has been pushing this issue for years. It’s only now, as a Senator in a dramatically different Washington, that his Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights is gaining real traction–and even now in his usual demure style Udall has handed the bill off to allies in key committees, where guys like Chuck Schumer get most of the splashy national press quotes.

Of course, it’s not like Denver’s (only) newspaper of record, the Denver Post, is interested in reporting on this important story featuring Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator and an issue making headlines around the country. In fact this hasn’t been worth a single mention (Google and prove us wrong). This week’s round of intellectually bankrupt robopolls, on the other hand, complete with much chortling prognostication from Dick Wadhams? Story after story after story.

Something seems kind of, you know, screwy with that.


22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. twas brillig says:

    He had something up about Betsy Markey and this. I don’t think it made it into print though.


  2. DavidThi808 says:

    A very unusual attribute in an elected official.

    The credit card companies are complete scum. We have very large balances on our business cards (the one for Google ads – OMG) which we pay off every month. Got a new person handling it, she got the payment in before the date on the front – and we got a penalty. Because the front date was the “due date” but a date on the last page in very small letters was a date a week earlier that was the “no interst due if paid by date.”

    And the from the merchant side – they take 2 – 4% and assume no liability. Back when we sold Page 2 Stage about 2% of our customers would order and then tell the credit card company that they didn’t like it and would get a full refund. The fact that we had a free demo and in some cases could show from support emails that they were using it was irrelevant.

    They pull every possible dirty trick available to increase their take.

    • Ralphie says:

      About a year and a half ago, they started not mailing my bill until at least a week after the billing cycle closed. They also shortened the payment due date from a month to three weeks. It takes five days to a week for the bill to get here.  Even if I drop my payment in the mail the day I get the bill, it would be a very iffy proposition whether it will get there on time.

      They want the payment to be late, you see.  That way they can charge me a penalty and raise my interest rates.  But I won’t play.

      Fortunately, there’s a branch of the issuing bank here.  Every month for a year and a half, I have paid my credit card bill (in full) in person.

      It’s a pain in the ass, but I can’t let them get away with what they’re trying to do.

      • Emma Anne says:

        I have my bank automatically pay a small amount each month to the credit cards I use several days before the due date.  I then pay them the rest myself when I get the bill, but if I miss their cutoff, the bank payment prevents a late charge (though not interest charges).

      • sxp151 says:

        Even then, they’ll sometimes try to charge a late fee if I have a $100 balance on my credit card, even though I have thousands of dollars in my checking account they could just take if they wanted. But at least they’re decent and will take the fee off.

        Turns out, though, if you only use your bank for a credit card and cancel all your other ones, it hurts your credit score. You need to have a bunch of credit cards and use them frequently for very small purchases in order to get the highest credit score. Or so I’ve heard.

  3. MesaModerate says:

    What seems screwy is referring to a guy that’s been in the Senate less than 100 days as a “senior” senator.  I know it’s technically correct but still…

    • Go Blue says:

      The attack on Udall’s title in reference to this piece of legislation is only to be interpreted as you actually defending predatory lenders who mug consumers.

      Your ideological insanity is showing.

  4. Middle of the Road says:

    And I’ve never had it happen before. I got a letter in the mail from Bank of America notifying me that my business credit card APR, effective March 30, would be 17.9%,up from my 10.9% that I have been paying since 2004. I’ve had this card for five years, have never been late on a payment, always pay over the amount due and haven’t even used the card in over a year.

    I called to protest, mostly because the reasons listed for the decision made zero sense to me and also because I’m working overtime to pay off debt and this would have been a huge blow to that plan.

    They immediately reversed the decision, based on my account being in “good standing” but still…I can’t even imagine how many people this has happened to and I can’t help but wonder if it didn’t help that I just happened to call them on the same day Obama publicly called for credit card companies to stop engaging in deceptive practices.

  5. BlueCat says:

    really ought to be making sure this is well publicized. A great crowd pleaser not to mention the right thing to be doing.  

    Udall looking good but Bennet?  His numbers are getting scary, in spite of weak GOP field, and so are Ritter’s, also in spite of weak GOP field, no thanks to Bennet’s appointment.  Bennet doesn’t seem to be willing to take a strong stand on anything and his over caution is making him look weak and wishy washy, not traits valued by Colorado voters of any political persuasion. And appointees are hardly shoe-ins the way most elected incumbents are.  

    Maybe Bennet should be convinced to fall on his sword, perhaps citing a desire to return to education, maybe with a kick upstairs to an appointed post. That could kill two birds with one stone, giving Dems a chance for a stronger Senatorial candidate in 2010 and getting Ritter somewhat off the hook for a poor choice.  A new senatorial candidate that pleases more demos could help stop the bleeding for Ritter going into 2010 and make the next cycle easier and cheaper for Dems.


    • twas brillig says:

      Bennet should totally just resign because of that robo-poll!

      Somehow, I don’t think he’s that stupid.  

      • BlueCat says:

        any one poll. Do you know tons of people who are wild about Bennet?  Or really enthusiastic about Ritter?  I know tons of people who haven’t gotten over being really pissed off about the Bennet appointment.  Not saying they can’t both be re-elected.  Just saying things aren’t looking all that peachy. And the GOP will spend tons if they smell blood. And appointees are historically vulnerable.  

        • DavidThi808 says:

          There are about 10 people who are still pissed that Romanoff was not the one appointed. That’s it. The rest of us have taken a look at Bennet and find him a very good choice. Maybe not our personal pick, but a very good choice.

          So until you get elected governor and have a Senator resign learn to live with the fact that it’s up to the Gov to make a good choice, not to make the choice you would make.

          • BlueCat says:

            No need to take that tone.  I’ve been over it for ages.  

            Would I be happier with a stronger candidate and thrilled if that could happen without a contentious primary?  Yes I would.  Will I support Bennet in the far more likely case that we’re now stuck with him?  Sure. Sorry if just pointing out that sailing may not be entirely smooth with this guy and that Ritter (who will likely be re-elected) isn’t exactly endearing himself to the electorate lately so offends. I’ve made positive comments about Bennet, too.

            Maybe YOU should get over it.  Wasn’t aware that we all had to sign a loyalty oath  swearing to be wildly enthusiastic about everything and never harbor a single doubt about these guys no matter what but particularly if they’ve had lunch with you.

        • ardy39 says:

          I know tons of people who haven’t gotten over being really pissed off about the Bennet appointment.

          I’ve only talked with approximately two tons of people about their views regarding Bennet. As with me, most of them were skeptical at first, but after having a chance to meet him or hear him speak in public, they are warming to him. I’ve heard comments like “intelligent,” “studious,” “well-informed,” as well as “boyish,” “disarming,” and “energetic.”

          Am I wild about Bennet? No. But then, I’m not wild about any of my elected representatives and I would be very concerned if I was. Any elected official that was so well aligned with my concerns for me to be “wild” would likely be pissing off at least 75% of their constituents!

          • BlueCat says:

            polls AND anecdotes and anything else that doesn’t suit your preferred reality, hmm? Also see my reply to Dave.

            • ardy39 says:

              I was merely calling your anecdote with one of my own, BCat. Both are of nearly equal value (i.e., not significantly different from zero).

              The differences in our anecdotes are probably more reflective of differences in the people we hang around rather than a valid representation of likely voters in Colorado.

              Thus, facing reality means admitting we are working with very little evidence. It is folly to think that any of us as any level of certainty about how well Bennet will do 18 months from now. Really.

              • BlueCat says:

                Very true, ardy39.  Which is why you will see no such certainty in any of my comments in this thread on the subject of Bennet. In fact far less than the level of certainty expressed by you and Dave in cheerleading mode. We’ll all just have to stay tuned, won’t we?

                • ardy39 says:

                  Hey BCat, can you point out where in my two posts above I wrote anything that resembles “cheerleading?”

                  In this post I was satirizing your preceding post with my own meaningless anecdote and then commented that I was NOT wild about Bennet. Absolutely no level of certainty was expressed about any upcoming Senate races. Can you point out where you got this impression from my posts?

                  In my next post was (as is now apparent) my first clarification of my first post. (This post being my second clarification.)

                  So I don’t get it. I post a couple of comments pointing out that your anecdote may not be representative of likely Colorado voters and you accuse me of cheerleading?


          • DavidThi808 says:

            But then, I’m not wild about any of my elected representatives and I would be very concerned if I was. Any elected official that was so well aligned with my concerns for me to be “wild” would likely be pissing off at least 75% of their constituents!

            I’ve yet to see something where I strongly disagree with Jared. I’m hoping something does come up – it would actually make me feel better.

  6. Emma Anne says:

    It really isn’t to anyone’s benefit for the CC companies to be charging people loan shark rates.  I know the arguments about pricing risk, but if CC companies can’t make money charging people, say, prime + 10%, then they shouldn’t lend to those people.  If circumstances change and the person becomes a worse risk after the money was loaned, well that is what pricing risk is for.

  7. The realist says:

    and great evidence as to why there needs to be a tightened regulatory scheme.  Funny isn’t it, how regulation really is brought about by the companies themselves.  After having late fees applied a couple of times when the Postal Service just couldn’t get my mailed payment to a CC company by the due date, I began paying CC bills online.  I still get mailed bills, and my experience with USBank and Target Visa cards is that the bills are mailed to me with reasonable lead time before the due dates.  I track the due dates in my own calendar, to make sure the payments are made timely.  Has worked well for me.  Interest rates?  I truly don’t know if they’ve been increased (probably don’t want to know) , but I HAVE reduced my balances to near zero (fortunately).  

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