The credit card compainies just don't get it -- but they are doing their absolute best to get us! Over the past few weeks, we have received letters from nearly every major credit card company containing adverse changes to their terms -- higher interest rates, even higher default rates, new and increased fees, and arcane provisions designed to shaft the unwary. Apparently, these bottom-feeders don't realize we're in a recession or worse -- or, perhaps, they do realize that sad fact, and are determined to get their symbolic pound of flesh while they still can.
In the last unlamented session of Congress, new restrictions were placed on credit cards, with clearer disclosures required and some limits on their extortionate rates and charges. But those new restrictions do not take effect for some time, so during this interim period the gougers are finding new and creative ways to gouge us even more than previously.
Until a couple of decades ago, the interest rates being charged now would have been considered usurious and would have been illegal. Then the credit industry lobby pressured a willing Congress to change the rules. We are unlikely to ever know just how many bankruptcies and how much consumer misery resulted, and what amount of our limited funds has been extorted by those changes. We can rest assured, however, that the credit card issuers will continue to devise ways to hurt consumers who fall between the cracks in the new legislation -- a task at which they have proven themselves very good. So, after that legislation takes effect, we will have to watch out for new scams and slams, along with bogus offers.
Every time you receive anything from a credit card company, particularly if you have one of that company's cards, the new information needs to be studied with a fine-tooth comb. It is very common that the fine print says that by using that particular card after a certain date, you have agreed to the new adverse terms. That is called the legal doctrine of implied consent. It sucks for the consumer, but is great for allowing the card issuers to catch the unwary.
The new approach they use is even worse: unless you return the card, and the company receives it by a date not too far off, it is assumed that you consent to the new terms. You do not have to actually use the card to suffer the affliction. Rather, the burden is on the consumer to object in a pro-active fashion; just doing nothing will not save you from being hurt.
The credit card issuers not only hold all of the cards -- they have also stacked the deck. Were the Italian author Dante alive today, he would add one more well-deserved circle in Hell to accomodate the executives and attorneys. So, caveat emptor -- buyer (or customer) beware!