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27 October 2009

Government adopts common sense approach to credit crunch and interest rates

It was announced today that the government would revise credit card terms including importantly stopping the unfair practice of forcing people to pay off the lowest interest rate first, leaving them on a potentially crippling high rate until the entire balance is cleared. Long recognised as unfair, I proposed this to the Department for Business last year and they rejected the idea. Here is the response received.

I'm glad to see that a year later, common sense has finally prevailed.

Craig

Dear Mr Cockburn

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the regulation of financial
services interest rates.

The Government has no plans to make regulations regarding the repayment
of loans having differing rates of interest. However, the Government
has introduced strengthened information requirements under the Consumer
Credit Act 2006. Lenders will be obliged from October 2008 to give
their customers clearer and more regular information on the state of
their credit accounts in order to help them identify potential problems
before it is too late. From October 2008, statements must also include
information about the consequences of failing to make payments or of
only making minimum repayments. In addition, lenders are already
required to provide a summary box, as part of the pre-contractual
information, giving consumers a consistent and succinct summary of the
key features of the credit card they are considering and enabling them
to compare different products more easily. The summary box includes APR
and other rates; the interest free period; interest charging
information; allocation of payments; minimum repayment; the amount of
credit; fees; charges; and default charges. Furthermore, lenders have
agreed voluntary post-contractual information guidelines for summary
boxes to be sent with monthly credit card statements. This means that
consumers will be better informed about their financial commitments and
able to check the features of their credit card on a monthly basis.

The OFT recently conducted a study which rejected the idea of forcing
lenders to move to a standard system for interest rate charging.
Instead, it recommended the establishment of a comparison website to
enable consumers to compare the costs of different credit cards based on
their likely patterns of usage and the way different providers calculate
and charge interest. FSA have agreed to host this site on their
'MoneyMadeClear' website, http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov, alongside
existing price comparison functions for insurance and other products.
Furthermore, APACS, the UK trade association for payments and for
institutions that deliver payment services to customers, has set up a
website at http://www.choosingandusing.com/ to help consumers understand
how credit cards work, the factors that they should consider when making
their choice and the best ways to use their card.
I trust this response is helpful.
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