Obama signs credit card legislation
Law will protect consumers from surprise fees
WASHINGTON - President Obama warned overeager shoppers and greedy credit card companies alike on Friday to act responsibly as he signed into law a bill designed to protect debt-ridden consumers from surprise charges.
What the changes will mean to you. B6
The White House ceremony was held in the Rose Garden, an indication of the legislation's importance to Obama. Though opposed by many financial companies, the bill cleared Congress with broad support.
Obama made clear that he didn't champion the changes with the intention of helping those who buy more than they can afford through "reckless spending or wishful thinking."
"Some get in over their heads by not using their heads," the president said. "I want to be clear: We do not excuse or condone folks who've acted irresponsibly."
And yet, he said, for many of the millions of Americans, trying to get out of debt has been made difficult and bewildering by their credit card companies. Nearly 80 percent of Americans have credit cards and half of those carry a balance, according to the White House. The Federal Reserve estimates the nation is some $2.5 trillion in debt, a figure that does not include home mortgages.
Obama said many people have gotten "trapped" because of the downturn in the economy that has turned family budgets on their heads. But, he said, "part of it is the practices of the credit card companies."
He criticized policies that allowed for confusing fine print; the sudden appearance of unexplained fees on bills; unannounced shifts in payment deadlines, interest charges or rate increases even when payments aren't late; and payments directed to balances with the lowest interest rates. "We're here to put a change to all that," Obama said.
One part of the bill Obama did not publicly celebrate at the signing was a gun amendment that allows people to bring loaded guns into national parks and wildlife refuges.
Despite being touted as a victory for consumers, financial specialists said the bill could have unintended consequences as credit card companies look for ways to make up for potential lost revenue.