Credit Card Practices Topic A at Obama Town Hall
By Michael D. Shear
RIO RANCHO, N.M. -- President Obama declared that "enough's enough" when it comes to high credit card fees and sudden interest rate hikes and called on Congress to immediately protect consumers from abusive practices by credit card companies.
Speaking to a packed town hall meeting here even as Senators debated credit card legislation back in Washington, Obama sought to use the rhetorical power of the presidency to push Congress forward.
"These practices, they've only grown worse in the middle of this recession, when people can afford them least," he told the friendly crowd of about 2,000. "You should not have to worry that when you sign up for a credit card, you are signing away all your rights."
The president waved aside the concerns of credit card executives, who have warned that new regulations on their industry would reduce the availability of lending in the middle of an economic downturn.
He said companies deserve to make a profit, but he said government should make sure the companies are not doing so unfairly.
"This is America, and we don't begrudge a company's success when that success is based on honest dealings with consumers," he declared.
The White House used Obama's town hall to cap a concerted effort to pressure lawmakers to pass the credit card bill. The president was introduced by a local New Mexico woman who has been the victim of what Obama called abusive tactics.
Christine "Chris" Lardner told the audience that a mistaken charge by her daughter's college put her over the limit on her credit card, which hiked her interest rate to almost 30 percent.
"They said ... they were perfectly within their legal rights to raise our rate," she told the crowd. "Raising my rate to 30 percent is ludicrous and corrupt. I say that rights like these may be legal but they are ethically wrong."
Lardner had written to Obama complaining about her credit card company, as did about 50 other local residents who were invited to the town hall by the administration.
As he did last week, Obama urged lawmakers to pass legislation that he can sign into law by Memorial Day.
Posted at 1:24 PM ET on May 14, 2009
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