Sanders booklet takes on credit card companies (Bennington Banner)

Neal P. Goswami, Staff Writer

BENNINGTON — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has put together a booklet filled with testimonials from Americans on alleged credit card company abuses.

Sanders, an independent, and a long-time advocate for reining in many practices of credit card companies, said Tuesday he has distributed the booklet to his colleagues in the Senate. He is looking to drum up support for legislation pending in Congress that will place limits on credit card companies.

"What they are doing is not only hurting individuals ... they are impacting the whole economy," Sanders said.

According to Sanders, credit card companies are using tactics "that border on criminality," and have a "significant impact on middle-class families." Credit card companies use "bait-and-switch" tactics to entice customers with zero or no interest cards "while hiding what they really plan to charge you in small-type legalese."

"These are not people who have been late on their payments," Sanders said. "It is arbitrary, it is unfair, and it is outrageous."

The booklet contains a sample of more than 1,000 comments Sanders received by Vermonters and people across the country. He said about the respondents were from Vermont.

"I'd been on time every month, and one day I got my statement and wow my interest rate had more than double(d). I called and they did put it back to the rate I had and said it would be good only for 9 months and then they would
up it again and I would have to call again," wrote Denise, a Bennington resident.

The House passed a Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights last week, which would ban most retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances and double-cycle billing. Sanders said he supports the legislation, but wants to see Congress go further.

"In order to protect the American people and our small businesses, we must pass a national usury law," he said.

Sanders has introduced legislation that would cap all consumer loans at 15 percent interest.

He said support for such legislation is slowly growing, but still faces powerful opposition in Washington. The credit card industry has spent about $5 billion in the past decade on lobbying and in political contributions to build support, according to Sanders.

"What we're strongly for here is against a very, very powerful resistance," he said. "These people still maintain enormous power over what goes on here."