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N.B. senator renews credit card fight

IDNUMBER 200901290069
PUBLICATION: New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
DATE: 2009.01.29
SECTION: News;News
BYLINE: Rob Linke Telegraph-Journal
COPYRIGHT: © 2009 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick)

N.B. senator renews credit card fight

New Brunswick Liberal Senator Pierrette Ringuette is pressing on with her bid to have the Senate banking committee investigate the credit and debit card systems despite the promise of some action in the federal budget.

The government pledged in Tuesday's budget to improve disclosure by financial institutions so that consumers have "clear and simple" information on credit card application forms and contracts, and better advance notice of changes in rates and fees.

The government is also going to require a minimum grace period on new purchases made with a credit card and improve debt collection practices.

"It was lip service," said Ringuette.

With a speech Wednesday, Ringuette reintroduced a motion she first pushed shortly before Parliament prorogued in early December.

It calls on the Senate to give the banking, trade and commerce committee a mandate to investigate credit and debit card fees, interest rates and industry practices, including the rates charged to merchants whose customers pay with credit cards.

"Canadians are furious at the sky-high interest rates charged by banks and credit-card companies," Ringuette told the Senate.

She criticized the federal budget for offering billions more to financial institutions to improve access to credit "when the government knows full well they have not reduced credit card rates."

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. Most Canadians pay their cards in full each month and pay no interest at all.

Ringuette also slammed the Conservatives for promising to create an independent panel of experts to come up with ways to improve Canadians' financial literacy.

"This adds insult to injury," she said. "It's saying to Canadians, 'you can't count.'","

Ringuette said the prorogation of Parliament delayed her effort for two months, but she hopes the Senate will support the motion.

The Conservatives have 15 sitting days to respond.