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CONTRIBUTED via Congressman Dan Maffei News Room, 25th District of New York (17-Feb-2010)

Congressman Maffei joined with representatives from the Empire Justice Center in Rochester to address the provisions of the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights and consumer protection. Congressman Maffei is on the House Financial Services Committee, where he worked extensively on the creation and passage of the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights last year, which ultimately passed with broad bi-partisan support and was signed into law by President Obama in May 2009. Most of the provisions of the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights- such as new requirements for notifications, the end of "double-cycle billing", universal default, and many more- become effective February 22nd, 2010. Maffei joined with Empire Justice Center today to talk about the deceptive practices that have hurt so many consumers and what the new legislation will do for credit cardholders.

Congressman Maffei said: “The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights is one of the pieces of legislation I am most proud of from my first year in office. I've heard unbelievable stories from constituents across my district who played by the rules, paid their bills on time, and still fell victim to deceptive tricks perpetrated by big banks and credit card companies. I know there is still much more work to do to level the playing field for consumers, but the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights is a very strong step in the right direction.”

When the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights was signed into law, the effective date of some provisions, such as requirement of 45 days notice before an interest rate hike was October 2009, but many other provisions would not be made effective until May or August of 2010. As many card companies rushed to make changes to beat the new rules, Congressman Maffei fought to move the effective date forward for all provisions as soon as possible. As a result, the effective date of the bill was moved to February 22, 2010. Consumers will see changes, such as their bills will let them know how to become debt free in three year and how long it will take to pay off their bill if they only pay the minimum amount each month. Additionally, companies can no longer enforce "morning or mid-day" due dates, increase interest rates because of a late payment, or raise interest rates on pre-existing balances. Read a summary of the new provisions here or at the following website: http://banking.senate.gov/public/_files/051909_CreditCardSummaryFinalPassage.pdf

Bryan D. Hetherington, Chief Counsel at Empire Justice Center, said: “Wall Street has broken its contract with the American people. When we faced an economic meltdown the tax payers bailed out the big banks. We naively assumed that they would work for their customers to makes sure that we would never repeat the mistakes of the past years of lending without rules. Unfortunately, it is very clear that we need stronger consumer protections to rein in the excesses of Wall Street. We thank Congressman Maffei for his support of this important law and look forward to working with him to provide additional protections to hard working tax payers.”

Ruhi Maker, Senior Attorney at Empire Justice Center, said: “The Credit Card Act is an important first step that will protects consumers. With 86 percent of credit card lending concentrated amongst eight issuers, consumers need protection from deceptive fees. The most important change is that banks will no longer be able to raise borrowers' rates on existing balances unless the consumer becomes 60 days late on their bill. As families budget in these difficult times they should not have their interest rates double on money they already owe even when they have been paying on time. We applaud Congressman Maffei for his leadership role in this important first step that protects consumers.”

About the Empire Justice Center

Empire Justice is a statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. With a focus on poverty law, Empire Justice undertakes research and training, acts as an informational clearinghouse, and provides litigation backup to local legal services programs and community based organizations. As an advocacy organization, we engage in legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of those impacted by poverty and discrimination. As a non-profit law firm, we provide legal assistance to those in need and undertake impact litigation in order to protect and defend the rights of disenfranchised New Yorkers.


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