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January 1st - government deal on credit cards

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Credit card companies have agreed to offer some breathing space to consumers struggling with repayments.



The companies have also agreed not to raise interest rates if a customer:

  • Fails to make the minimum repayment for more than two months
  • Already has a repayment plan in place
  • Is in "serious discussion" with a debt advice group.

The plan, which comes into effect on 1 January, also includes a pledge from the providers of credit cards and store cards not to increase interest rates in the first 12 months, and no more frequently than every six months thereafter. If it does decide to raise the APR, customers will be given 30 days notice of the change. There is no mention in the principles, however, that instructs credit card companies to pass on any cuts in the Bank of England's Bank rate to credit card borrowers. So borrowers could still face interest rate increases, but will be given more notice of them.


'Real hardship'


.... Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas. Previously, he has pointed to the example of one case when a borrower's APR was doubled while they were in debt. The card providers had already agreed to a 60-day breathing space for borrowers in difficulty.


The government says anyone who believes a previous rate rise was unfair should take their case to the Financial Services Ombudsman Service which can order compensation to be paid if the increase was unjustified.


"There is much good news here," said Malcolm Hurlston, chairman of the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. "By agreeing not to raise interest rates for people struggling to make repayments, credit card companies have taken a significant step and will help ensure bad personal situations are not made worse.


"However more still needs be done. It is essential that all credit card companies follow the example of the best and freeze charges, fines and interest on the debts of clients who are on a debt management plan."


There are 31 million credit cardholders in the UK, borrowing billions of pounds. About half pay off their debts at the end of every month, making interest charges irrelevant, according to the UK payments association Apacs. But the economic downturn is expected to push more people into difficulty making repayments, and into a spiral of debt.

Edited by Mistermind



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