OFT failing credit card users

18 December 2003
The Commons Treasury select committee yesterday criticised finance industry regulators for failing to safeguard the interests of credit card consumers.

The Office of Fair Trading was slammed for not doing enough to end the 'deliberately obscure' advertising which was enticing consumers into debt.

Senior MPs called for new laws to simplify interest rate levels and the terms and conditions found in the small print.

"The whole of the industry is tarnished with the same brush and has been getting away with it for far too long," said one member of the committee. Another added: "The industry is guilty of dealing in deceit".

The Committee report highlighted the credit card industry's lack of transparency over interest rates and for standing by as consumers sleepwalked into debt.

The Committee said the OFT's passivity in "the face of blatant unfairness" to consumers was "unacceptable".

The Committee also wagged its finger at the Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees Britain's £52 billion credit industry, for its "pedestrian approach".

The Committee said responsibility for regulating credit cards should be handed over to the Financial Services Authority.

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the Halifax had misled the public by claiming it was the only card issuer to offer 0 per cent on balance transfers for the first nine months.