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House to Mark Up (Delayed) Credit Card Reform Bill Next Week

Wasting no time, the House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to mark up its credit card reform bill next Wednesday, according to a Democratic aide. Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the bill includes a slew of new consumer protections, giving card users longer notice of imminent rate increases and preventing banks from hiking rates on existing balances. A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), squeaked through the Senate Banking Committee late last month.

It might not matter all that much.

The Federal Reserve finalized similar reforms in December, with the changes to take effect in July 2010. Democrats support the Fed’s move, but argued at the time that the changes wouldn’t arrive soon enough to help struggling consumers survive the downturn. Indeed, Maloney issued a statement at the time urging Congress to “act sooner to protect American consumers by giving credit card protections the permanence and force of law.”

Yet the Maloney bill, which was originally written to take hold 30 days after passage, was altered in a subcommittee markup earlier this month to extend the implementation date to a year. Similarly, the Senate bill, which initially took effect immediately after passage, was amended in committee so that it won’t take hold for nine months.

Consumer advocates expect that the two chambers would reach some comprise between the nine- and 12-month implementation timelines — if the bills were to pass each chamber, which is in no way guaranteed. By the time these bills are functioning, the Fed’s rules will be nearly in place.

Chalk up another win for the banks.

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