The House Economic Matters Committee, acting in concert with the governor and House and Senate leaders, yesterday added several so-called "consumer" amendments to the banking deregulation measure approved by the Senate a week ago.
The amendments are intended to provide several consumer protections not included in the Senate measure, while still permitting a variety of fees that House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin said will be controversial when the bill comes up for a vote in the House next week.
The legislation would allow membership fees on credit cards issued by banks and department stores, and permit banks and other financial institutions to charge transaction and billing-period fees.
The bill also would let financial institutions that do not charge a membership fee raise their income by eliminating the current 25-day interest-free period now granted to customers who make credit card purchases. Instead, consumers could be charged interest from the day a credit card purchase was made.
Cardin said that he supports the bill because it will enable Maryland banks and other financial institutions to compete with those in neighboring Delaware and Virginia, where deregulation has already become law.
The financial industry, which last year persuaded the legislature effectively to deregulate interest by increasing the state's interest ceiling to 24 percent, has lobbied heavily for the current legislation, labeling it a "jobs bill."
Banking lobbyists contend that Maryland lost 1,000 jobs when several Maryland banks last year moved their credit card operations to Delaware, where membership fees are permitted.