The Credit CARD Act of 2009 had included a provision that requires credit card issuers to give their credit card agreement text to the Federal Reserve. This is to create a database of credit card agreements issued by the credit card companies in the United States. The database is created to provide customers instant access to their own card agreements. It will also customers to compare terms and conditions before applying for new credit.
The database has been running for months and has received reviews from critiques. Experts are happy to see such database that is informative. Linda Sherry, the Consumer Action director for national priorities, said that the database is an "overwhelming amount" of details. The problem is, she added, that the database is more helpful to academics than to customers.
The staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center Chi Chi Wu has the same view. She states that the database isn`t functional as a tool for comparing terms. She agrees that the database is more applicable to researchers and for people who can`t find their card agreement.
Jennifer Golbeck, co-director of the University of Maryland`s Human-Computer Interaction Lab, said that the database operators and developers did certain things well, but there are some things that aren`t satisfactory. The agreements are in text versions and do not require customers to download PDF files or any program that can open them. The downside is some of the text files have abnormal formatting. Golbeck says that the problem could be solved by using a simple filter before posting it.
The database started running on May 24, 2010 and is designed to hold agreements for credit card companies that have 10,000 accounts or more. Small credit card issuers don`t have to give their agreements. The updates are done quarterly with the next on September, says Federal Reserve.
The contracts can be viewed in both text and PDF format. Some contracts also have their Spanish versions. One problem noted is the labeling.
The website lists card agreements by issuer name. There are some card issuers who have similar names. If the consumer uses the search function to look for his issuer name, he might be returned with several results. Golbeck notes that customers would have to click each result one by one to determine which of them pertains to his company. In addition, the list of cards and subsidiaries is not complete. Some customers can`t find their credit card agreements even if the names of their credit card companies are present. Even more complaints: addendums of some card agreements are listed in separate links.
Some of the files have their Spanish version. The problem with this is that the files aren`t labeled and each link has to be clicked to determine which is which.
Other than the technicalities, the contract themselves also contain problems. Most contract agreements are unreadable and have complicated readability. Customers can view their contract, that is a yes, but this problem is directed to the card issuers. For them it is obvious that card agreements have written the contracts in a way that customers reading them won`t understand them.