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Giving Consumers a Platform

Posted by Elizabeth Vale with the Department of Commerce

Last Friday, if you watched the President sign the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in the Rose Garden, you may have noticed Janet Hard sitting in the front row. Janet, a nurse from Freeland, Michigan, was responsible and made her payments on time. Despite this, Janet’s interest rate was increased to 24%, and the credit card company even applied this rate retroactively to past purchases. Janet’s story was brought to the attention of the Office of Public Engagement by Senator Levin’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Janet was asked to attend the signing of the bill because she was a victim of the very predatory credit card practices that the bill is designed to eliminate.
The Office of Public Engagement wanted to talk with American consumers like Janet and hear their stories. The office called a number of people who had written letters and emails to the President about the issue in an effort to find people who to talk about the problems cardholders encounter first hand and the need for reform.  Recently, one out of every ten letters chosen for the President to read daily has addressed consumer issues with credit cards. 
Chris, a mother of three from Albuquerque, New Mexico, emailed the President on May 12 to tell her story. Chris charged her daughters’ college tuition to her credit card, unknowingly going over her limit because of a mix-up with the school. The credit card company then charged her an over-limit fee and increased her interest rate from 9.24% to 29.99%. The Office of Public Engagement called Chris to learn if the bill would address her complaint. The comprehensive credit card reform bill addressed exactly the problem Chris had faced, and she was asked to introduce the President at a town hall on the topic in Albuquerque.
The Office of Public Engagement wanted to give a voice to consumers like Chris and Janet to show the real implications the bill will have on the lives of Americans. The bill will protect those who pay responsibly from irresponsible credit card company policies, and millions of Americans will benefit from the new fairer rules governing what has become a standard part of American life.