Twelve states passed new laws this year restricting the advertising practices, fees and interest rates of credit card companies, but similar measures died in two dozen other legislatures, a consumer group said yesterday.
Connecticut, which has imposed a 15 percent cap on interest rates charged by local and out-of-state credit card companies, took the strongest action in regulating consumer credit practices, according to a survey by Bankcard Holders of America.
However, the legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Montana repealed laws imposing restrictions on the industry.
The District of Columbia was listed along with eight states that did not consider legislation this year increasing the regulation of credit card practices.
"Unfortunately, I think it's still fair to say that banking lobbyists in the state capitols are as strong as ever," said Elgie Holstein, director of Bankcard Holders. "I think it's fair to say that the banking lobbyists are winning more than they're losing."
Some 75 million people carry credit cards in the United States, and collectively they owe about $80 billion, he said.
Many of the credit cards, such as Mastercard and Visa, are issued by banks and charge an average interest rate of 18.3 percent, he said.
Bankcard Holders of America was founded in 1980 and has campaigned for lower interest rates on credit cards. The organization receives its financial support from the dues of its 130,000 members.
The legislatures have been limited in their ability to regulate interest rates on credit cards held by people in one state and issued by banks in other states after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1978 that such laws are unconstitutional. Connecticut's law may survive any legal challenge that should arise on those grounds because its interest-rate cap is imposed as a condition of doing business in the state, Holstein said