Unbelievable - An Open Response to Jim Guest

In the past, I've talked about my affinity for Consumers Union. I've also made no secret of my criticisms of CU. As a subscriber, CU dropped me this little note the other day. Titled "Unbelievable", I thought it would be pretty important to read. I was a tad surprised by their misguided request.

Dear Mr. Not the Jet Set,

It was unbelievable the first time the credit card companies jacked up our interest rates, doubled minimum payments and tacked on huge fees to try and beat a new February law that will end many of their abusive ways.

Now, they're at it again, and getting even more creative — but with your help, we can stop them cold!

Thanks to a huge outcry from American cardholders, the House just passed a bill to freeze interest rate hikes on your card balances, and give you new protections starting Dec. 1 — just in time for the holiday season. Now, we need the Senate to do the same!

E-mail your Senators right now to stop the rate increases — we can't afford to wait!

This continued attack on your wallet is no accident. A major credit card reform law goes into effect in February. The card companies begged Congress to delay its implementation so that they could "update their systems" to comply with the new law.

But instead, they've spent the time hitting you with new tricks — like a fee for paying off card balances each month. Or variable rate cards that only "vary" if interest rates increase, but don't give you the full break if interest rates drop in your favor.

If the companies can retool their computers to accommodate these tricks, there's no reason they can't abide by the new rules right now. After the recent bipartisan House vote, we have real momentum to stop these abuses. Now the Senate must hear that we can't afford the credit card company tactics, especially with the holidays approaching.

Tell your Senators to stop the rate increases and implement reforms NOW!

After you e-mail the Senate, please forward this to anyone you know who is fed up with these tactics. We have immense power when we band together — let's put the pressure on now!

Jim Guest
President, Consumers Union

Well, Jim, I have to say, "No". Thanks, but no thanks. I for one will not be contacting my Senator on this initiative. While I don't agree with these incredibly anti-consumer practices, I also feel strongly that Consumer's Union is barking up the wrong tree here.

Legislation is not the answer
These snakes have shown again and again, that they can and will find a way around. They have more lawyers than you can imagine. They will find the loophole, and they will exploit it. The CARD Act of 2009 is a perfect example of two attributes of the credit card industry:
  1. Their incredibly powerful lobby that bought them the time to run wild on consumers. Everybody knew that Congress gave them far too long to comply - their actions should come as no surprise.
  2. Their insatiable thirst to screw over consumers. Too harsh? Hardly. These companies are not here to help. They are not here to provide a valuable product or service. They have made it very very clear, again by their actions, that they are simply out for your money.
Even in prior acts of Congress on fair debt collections and reporting, they have found their ways around it, and have carried on business as usual. Legislation is not the answer.

Congress, dare I say, has better things to do
In the United States, we have:
  • A bloated tax system that penalizes those that save and succeed
  • A health care industry that's on par with credit in terms of abusiveness to consumers
  • A social security program that we all pay into, and yet stopped making sense decades ago
Not to mention a global war on terror with fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Far be it from me to stamp my foot and tell Congress to step up and fix my credit card.

There is a better way
Stop waiting for Congress to fix your problems. As we see with CARD 2009, they didn't quite get it right. Why would we expect their next action to be any more competent? The best thing for consumers to do is to take matters into their own hands. 5 years ago, we opted out. We stared down their offers of points and rewards and said thanks, but no thanks. We shredded those cards and never looked back.

So, Jim, I have to say that your plea for help has fallen somewhat on deaf ears. We've already solved this problem. We 'voted with out wallets' and took these snakes out of our lives. Consumers needn't beg and plead, dreaming of a day of rose tinted credit cards. Pink, puruple, orange, black or green - they all go through the shredder the same. I do wish you well in your fight. We simply have no need to fight this battle.

What's your take? Is this a problem that you think the government should handle? Or is it better left to consumers to handle?


autumnesf said...

When you sign up to use someone else's money, you need to play by their rules. They hold
the cards.

I agree that congress has better things to do. If we don't want to pay interest we shouldn't use other peoples money. Period.

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