Though federal legislation to protect credit card companies is receiving a share of criticism for shifting the burden of bankruptcy onto the poor, few have noticed the new rules could indirectly enforce treacherous repayment schemes.
Apr 5 – With bankruptcy reform legislation on the fast track to becoming law later this year, consumer advocates are issuing new warnings about abusive lenders and fake nonprofit credit counseling and debt management firms.
The bankruptcy reform bill has already passed the Senate and is expected to easily pass through the House of Representatives. The legislation is heavily backed by the credit industry, which spent more than $40 million on political fundraising and lobbying for the changes. But the proposed reforms have come under fire from consumer protection and industry watchdog groups. Most publicized are concerns that the legislation will make it harder for indebted individuals to find real debt relief through bankruptcy protection by requiring many debtors to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, in which the debtor is required to set up a repayment plan; instead of Chapter 7, in which some assets are seized, but debts are erased.
But a less talked about provision of the bill would require people seeking bankruptcy protection to first seek credit counseling, a prerequisite widely seen by consumer advocate groups as an opportunity for the debt counseling industry to profit off people in desperate financial circumstances.
“We’re concerned that this is basically giving carte blanche to an entire for-profit industry,” said Linda Sherry, spokesperson for Consumer Action, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. … Read all.