Consumer groups urged the Federal Reserve on Thursday to make minor changes to a proposal requiring more disclosures by credit card companies to help consumers understand various fees and interest rates.
The Fed's Consumer Advisory Council said it wants to require credit card companies to give customers more time when changing the terms of the account. The group prefers a 45-day notice period, instead of the Fed's proposed 15 days, a move that could reduce revenues for the industry.
Kurt Eggert, a professor at Chapman University School of law in Orange, California, said the extension allows a consumer to shop around for a new card company, resulting in competition with perhaps better fees and rates, and other benefits.
We want credit card companies to fight it out on price, Eggert said, with Fed Governor Randall Krosner listening.
Some members also said the proposed language for disclosing the annual percentage interest rate (APR) should instead reflect an overall APR that takes into account various fees.
The advisory council is comprised of the financial services industry, community development organizations, lawyers and academic experts.
The Fed plan would expand the summary table included in a customer's monthly statement to include fees and rates for balance transfers, cash advances, late payments and over-the-limit levels.
Closed-end credit products, such as home mortgages and other loans with fixed rates and payment schedules, are not included in the Fed proposal.
The proposal would also require creditors to warn a consumer that making a minimum payment would raise the rate and the amount of time it would take to pay off the balance.
Creditors would also have to provide such a hypothetical example and a toll-free number a customer can call to calculate how long it would take to pay off a balance using minimum payments.
Among the biggest issuers of Visa and MasterCard Inc. are Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup and Capital One Financial Corp. American Express Co. mainly issues cards under its own name.
Josh Peirez, chief payment system integrity officer at MasterCard Worldwide, told the group that credit cards are unique forms of open-ended revolving loans and there should be consequences for people who do not pay on time.
We are not a social utility, Peirez said. We are a business.
Carolyn Carter, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, said at the meeting she was concerned that disclosures made by credit card company representatives on the telephone are not later put down on paper.
But she said it was good to have at least a proposal to disclose fees in a summary table for opening accounts.
Congress has held a series of hearings to scrutinize credit card issuers accused of failing to properly notify consumers of rate changes, fees and rate changes. Lawmakers have already offered legislation to stop what they call abusive practices.