- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama warned overeager shoppers and greedy credit card companies alike on Friday to act responsibly as he signed into law a bill designed to protect debt-ridden consumers from surprise charges.

The White House staged a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, an indication of the legislation’s importance to Obama. Though opposed by many financial companies, the bill cleared Congress with broad support.

Obama made clear that he didn’t champion the changes with the intention of helping those who buy more than they can afford through “reckless spending or wishful thinking.”

“Some get in over their heads by not using their heads,” the president said. “I want to be clear: We do not excuse or condone folks who’ve acted irresponsibly.”

And yet, he said, for many of the millions of Americans who use credit cards and carry a balance, trying to get out of debt has been made difficult and bewildering by their credit card companies.

Obama said many “got trapped” because of the downturn in the economy that has turned family budgets on their heads. But, he said, “part of it is the practices of the credit card companies.”

He criticized policies that allowed for confusing fine print, the sudden appearance of unexplained fees on bills, unannounced shifts in payment deadlines, interest charges or rate increases even when payments aren’t late, and payments directed to balances with the lowest interest rates rather than the highest.

“We’re here to put a change to all that,” Obama said.

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