Obama, credit card execs didn’t agree on anything, er everything
You could tell Thursday was going to be a rough day for credit card companies as soon Christine Lardner got up to introduce President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
Lardner and her husband, Scott, own a small business and are putting two daughters through college. She described how the college erroneously billed her credit card for a sum that put her nearly $3,000 over her credit limit.
The credit card company authorized the charge and then over the next few months tripled her rate from under 10 percent to nearly 30 percent, Lardner said. Her efforts to negotiate the rate back to its original level were fruitless.
“I realize that credit card companies are for-profit businesses, but I also expect to be treated fairly; and raising my rate to 30 percent is ludicrous and corrupt,” Lardner told a cheering crowd.
Obama took up the theme himself, part of his push to get Congress to pass a credit card reform law that he can sign by the Memorial Day holiday at the end of the month.
“This is America,” he said, “and we don’t begrudge a company’s success when that success is based on honest dealings with consumers. But some of these dealings are not honest. That’s why we need reform.”
He said credit card companies currently charge more than $15 billion a year in penalty fees. Nearly half of all American families carry a month-to-month balance on their credit cards, and those who do have an average balance of more than $7,000.
Obama said consumers were responsible for some of the problem — living beyond their means and charging more than they could afford. But he said credit card companies also needed to mend their ways.
“Last month, I met with the leaders of the major credit card companies to discuss these and other reforms,” he said.
“And we didn’t agree on anything,” Obama said before catching himself as the crowd laughed. “Everything as you might expect. That was a slip of the tongue there. We didn’t agree on everything but we did agree that any reforms we can shouldn’t diminish consumers’ access to credit.”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama speaks at Rio Rancho town hall meeting)