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N.B. senator pledges to introduce law to regulate credit card fees

DATE: 2009.03.23

N.B. senator pledges to introduce law to regulate credit card fees

OTTAWA _ A Canadian senator says that if the federal government doesn't introduce legislation to protect businesses and consumers from soaring credit-card fees, she will.

Senator Pierrette Ringuette made the pledge Monday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

``Hopefully, Finance Minister (Jim) Flaherty and the Conservative government is listening to the plea of Canadians that they want legislated fairness in the system,'' said the Liberal senator from New Brunswick.

The Senate banking committee begins hearings on the topic on Wednesday.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business presented more than 12,000 ``action alerts'' from its members asking parliamentarians to investigate credit-card fees.

``The small-business sector ... is being confronted by uncontrollable cost increases from credit-card companies with seemingly little or no warning and economic conditions already tight,'' said Brien Gray, the federation's executive vice-president.

Gray said credit-card and debit-card industry practices should receive more scrutiny.

He applauded Ringuette and the Senate committee for tackling the issue.

Ringuette said that if the government fails to introduce legislation by the end of June, ``I will introduce legislation in the Senate to cap those fees because it's unfair to small- and medium-sized businesses.''

The recent federal budget included measures to strengthen disclosure requirements for banks that issue credit cards.

Other measures included the requirement for advance notice of changes in rates and fees and minimum grace periods on new purchases.

Ringuette has called those measures ``lip service'' because they don't provide real protection to consumers and businesses.

The credit-card industry maintains there is ample competition in the industry and a variety of credit-card products and other credit tools available to consumers.

They point out most Canadians pay their cards in full each month and pay no interest at all.