Credit card companies must 'get their act together'

Updated: 
The Government has told credit card companies that they must "get their act together" and has brought forward plans to prevent consumers being lumbered with unsustainable debts. A consultation document has been launched on changes to industry practices and aims ultimately to secure a better deal for borrowers.

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Currently credit and store cards often make customers pay off the cheapest debt first, while expensive borrowing, such as cash withdrawn on a credit card, is left until last. The Government will consider rules that would change that so that the most expensive debt is the first to be paid off, as well as raising minimum monthly repayments so that customers are not saddled with decades of debt.

Kevin Brennan, the Consumer Minister, said: "Card companies have to get their act together and do more for consumers. My opinion is clear, the current relationship between card companies and consumers cannot go unchallenged. We need to put the customer back in the driving seat."

Unexplained rises in interest rates and increasing credit limits without customer consent are also under consideration.

Mr Brennan added: "It is not acceptable for card companies to impose complex and confusing terms and conditions that can leave people baffled, or to increase interest rates without a proper explanation. Consumers have a real responsibility to manage their finances properly, but they also have a right to clear information to enable them to do that. Consumers should not feel each month as if they've been exploited or disadvantaged."

Fiona Hoyle, head of consumer finance at the Finance and Leasing Association, insisted: "We will be working closely with the Government on the practical implications of their proposals to ensure a fair deal for all."

The consultation will run until January 19.