Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flexible Friend Is Credit Card Conman

Planned credit card crack-downs are too little too late from a weasel-worded government which has allowed credit card companies to rip off customers with sky high interest rates.

Tough talk is meaningless until ministers have the guts to get to grips with interest rates which have been allowed to go through the roof.

Encouraging the growth of credit cards encouraged gullible customers to get deeper in debt with a flexible friend. Now the government is planning tough new curbs to stop the abuse. But it's all too late.

In a world without shame, debt firms big or small would be banned from charging massive interest rates with a consumer law putting a cap on charges and interest rates offered by lenders.

The public bought into the sham of the boom years when the living and credit was easy. Now they're paying the price.

Credit and store card firms have been allowed to get away with blue murder. The problem is not so much to do with having a flexible friend. The problem comes from charges at 18% - 20%, when the bank rate has fallen through the floor.

Why has it taken up until now for ministers to wake up and realise sharp selling with few checks is a recipe for financial disaster?

At the core is the shocking practice of multiple interest rates on one card, where only the cheapest rate is paid off first, leaving the debt with the largest interest to rack up a fat profit for the credit card company.

Minimum payments too lulls unsuspecting customers into a false sense of security with few realising that only the interest is being paid off. The capital debt will be there for years to come.

Credit cards were never meant to fuel the false spending spree of the false boom years. They started life as 'diners' cards for the fat cats not the masses and emergency back up for overseas holidays with tight checks on balances, payments and credit limits.

But the government sat back and allowed the brakes to be taken off. All part and parcel of the spending boom as consumer credit went through the roof.

How odd that only now, with an election around the corner, is the government which allowed this to happen in the first place, starting to bleat as a belated vote winner.

The solution is a new Consumer Credit Act which caps the rate of interest of all loans and credit cards tied to the bank rate. What justification can there be for a credit card charge of a double digit interest rate with a bank rate at 0.5 per cent.

Slick credit card offers from Capital One and the like kept coming in, even as the financial system was in melt down, dropped from the direct mail marketing mix only this year. Consumer credit is now falling as customers wake up to a mountain of outstanding debt. But the recession has been lingering around for more than a year.

Banks are suddenly cutting up plastic with a rapid rise in credit card default rates. Changes have been building up throughout the year due to the recession, sure but also to beat consumer protection legislation.

Today's moves are clearly welcome. But credit card companies have been hiking interest rates into double digits, raising unasked for limits and hiking up balance transfer and cash advance fees for ages.

But only now does the government reckon credit and store companies have to "clean up their act" because it's all been a bit "unfair". And even now nothing will see the light of day this side of an election.


Frank said...

I've had a credit card for 45 yers and never been ripped off. Cave emptor.

Maturecheese said...

I find it difficult to have sympathy with people who rack up huge credit card debts as nobody makes them do it. It doesn't matter how badly credit card companies act, we have our own free will and do not have to have the latest wide screen tv or a holiday abroad, paid for by credit card. What really gets my goat is that one way or another those of us whom exercise restraint and live within our means, end up paying for the feckless.

Having had my rant above, I do agree that the snake oil practises of the credit card companies should have been regulated a long time ago but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to happen as obscene profits through shady practises seem to be celebrated in the UK.