Feds Try Out Simpler Credit Card Agreement

December 11, 2001

A simpler credit card agreement is getting a tryout.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a prototype of a credit card agreement that’s written in plain English. The idea is to sweep away the legalese and make it easier for consumers to understand a card’s costs and terms.

The agency is asking for the feedback on the model agreement, which is at www.consumerfinance.gov/credit-cards/knowbeforeyouowe.

For now, there are no plans to require credit card issuers to adopt the form. But if the agency decided to make the form mandatory once testing is over, it could establish a consistent, industrywide template that would make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for cards.

As it stands, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau noted that the average credit card agreement runs 5,000 words and is packed with fine print that consumers don’t understand. The prototype agreement, by contrast, is just over 1,000 words and is broken down into three key sections — costs, changes and additional information.

The form will be tested with new credit card applicants at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Some applicants will get the existing version of the credit union’s card agreement so that the CFPB can compare consumer feedback.

The American Bankers Association, which represents the banking industry, praised the model form as a “good first step,” but said it could be made even shorter and less susceptible to costly lawsuits.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to police the financial products marketed to consumers. Consumer advocates have said that clearer mortgage disclosures could have helped prevent the subprime crisis that precipitated the financial meltdown.

Since it officially began operations this summer, the agency has focused on simplifying disclosures consumers receive with a variety of financial products. The agency is also testing simplified forms for mortgages and has asked for feedback on the issues borrowers encounter when applying for private student loans.

The rollout of the sample credit card agreement comes as the White House urges the Senate to confirm Richard Cordray to head the consumer bureau. Republicans have said they will block confirmation of anyone to head the agency until other regulators and Congress have more control over the bureau.

The White House says a recent study shows about two-thirds of credit card users say they don’t completely understand their cards’ terms.

Feds Try Out Simpler Credit Card Agreements.(2001, December 11). Retrieved from http://www.detnews.com/article/20111212/BIZ01/112120352/1001/biz/Feds-try-out-simpler-credit-card-agreement

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