Even some of our most sophisticated commentators doubt a link between consumer protection and any macroeconomic outcomes. Consumer protection, in this view, is microeconomics and quite different from macroeconomic issues (such as the speed and nature of our economic recovery).
Officially measured interest rates are down from their height in the Great Panic of 2008-09 and the financial markets, broadly defined, continue to stabilize. But are retail credit conditions, i.e., the terms on which you can borrow, getting easier or tougher?
On credit cards, there’s no question: it’s getting more expensive to borrow, particularly because new fees and charge are appearing. Of course, lenders have the right to alter the terms on which they provide credit. We could just note that this tightening of credit does not help the recovery and flies in the face of everything the Fed is trying to do – although it fits with Treasury’s broader strategy of allowing banks to recapitalize themselves at the expense of customers.
But there is an additional question: will these changes in lending conditions be reflected in the disclosed Annual Percentage Rate (APR)? Historically, the rules around the APR – overseen by the Federal Reserve – have not forced lenders to include all charges in this calculation. Why is this OK? Continue reading