Monday, March 17, 2008

Republicans Silence Witnesses To Help Credit Card Companies

Republicans may be in the minority in the House of Representatives, but that isn't going to stop them from trying to help their friends over at JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Capitol One. There was a hearing this past Thursday to get credit card holders' statements on their experiences with unexpected rate changes but for some odd reason, out of the five that flew across the country to testify only one did.

From Mother Jones:

In 2000, Illinois resident Marvin Weatherspoon (right) got a Bank of America credit card that he used to consolidate $12,000 in home repair bills, thinking the 4.5 percent introductory interest rate would help him get out of debt faster. Instead, though, eight years later, he has paid the bank more than $15,000, yet has reduced his principal balance by only $800. The reason? Even though he's paid his bills on time, Bank of America inexplicably raised his interest rate, first to 19.99 percent and then to 25 percent, where it is today.

Weatherspoon came to Washington yesterday to tell his story at a hearing on the Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights, a bill sponsored by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) that would restrict the kind of arbitrary interest rate increases Weatherspoon got hit with, among other things. But as it turned out, Weatherspoon never got to testify. The ever-powerful credit-card companies successfully bounced all of the consumers off the panel, leaving only academics and credit card executives to speak publicly.

At the outset of the hearing before a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, Maloney explained that "there have been fairness concerns raised about having consumers testify this morning without a waiver that allowed their credit-card issuers to respond publicly." Translation: The credit card companies wanted the consumer witnesses to make their financial records public so the banks could "rebut" their complaints, i.e., trash them in the press.

Yeah thats right, the CC companies stooped that low. Well if you were trying to keep up a false image and had billions of dollars riding on it (and you had no conscience) then you would do the same thing. Meanwhile the lobbyists of these banks got to fill up the seats in the committee room and testify about all the good things these companies have done for their customers. Of course that doesn't include jacking up interest rates at a moment's notice. Preventing those abuses is what the House Democrats are proposing in this legislation. A Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights is a necessary item with the greed of these companies increasing daily. For them its the bottom line and their customers be damned.