24 November, 2009

Stupid Credit Card Company Tricks

Digby points out the length to which credit card companies go to ensure you rack up plenty of late fees:
I honestly believe that this is the kind of thing that affects people every day and is leading to a populist backlash. People not only blame those who do these things, they blame those who have the authority and power for failing to step in and stop it:

Three years ago, the Haggler’s credit card bill seemed to stop showing up in the mail. Another month went by — no bill. The month after that, still nothing. Each month, the Haggler would call the issuer, Bank of America, and pay over the phone, then ask the same question: "Why did you stop sending me a bill?"

We’re still sending you a bill, came the company’s reply each time.

Guess what? The company was right. It just was sending the bill in a restyled envelope, with no trace of “Bank of America." In other words, it looked like junk mail, and the Haggler kept throwing it away.

Now, the Haggler can’t prove it, but this seemed like a brilliant, low-cost way to pocket a fortune in late fees.
And that's not all:
And that's what people are dealing with all the time as consumers, with their health insurance, their credit cards, their mortgages, their pensions --- overwhelming complexity designed to trip them up and cost them money or deny them benefits to which they believed in good faith they were entitled. And its all perfectly legal --- or at least there's no visible accountability for it.

The late fee tricks we are seeing all over the news is apparently going to go on unabated for as long as they can get away with it. And it goes back to the same central problems that created the financial meltdown in the first place:

The backdrop of this boo-boo is an industry that for the last 10 years has been refining the low art of late-fee shenanigans. Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says that starting in 1999 — when the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act allowed commercial and investment banks to merge — credit card companies started looking to late fees for profit.

“It began with regulators allowing banks to say that if a bill arrived on the due date but after a certain time on that day — like noon — then it was late,” Mr. Mierzwinski said. “Now, how many people know when a bank checks their mail?”

Some banks started moving up due dates without notice. Others required that payments sent via overnight mail use a special address, so that if you sent a payment by FedEx to the regular address, you were late.

Getting the picture?

And remember that the Cons think this is all fair and admirable and prevented Congress from stopping these nefarious fucks in their tracks.

That's all we really need to know about the Cons' concern for the common man, innit?

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