Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)

New credit card laws designed to help consumers

Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer) Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
11/30/2009 07:14 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – This year credit card companies and consumers were introduced to new laws designed to help protect consumers. Some laws went into effect in August, but others will not take effect until December and late February.

According to one Cherokee Nation employee, these laws have been needed for several decades because the credit card industry has gone unregulated, raising interest rates and changing terms of credit card contracts for millions of customers while they could.

“With the current economy and financial institutions being held to a stricter code of ethics and operations, reform was just a matter of time,” Deborah Vanderpool, a Self-Sufficiency supervisor with the tribe’s Commerce Group, said. “Consumers have been subject to unscrupulous credit card practices for decades, and we’ve still got a few months until we are fully protected.”

In response to the laws, many banks and credit card issuers have tightened standards for issuing cards, and most all have made it more difficult to qualify for a credit card.

“In a survey of the largest national banks, including 19 that issue credit cards, 68 percent indicated to bank examiners that they had tightened credit card lending standards during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2009,” Vanderpool said.

She said the new laws would affect people who use or will use a credit card and that benefits of these changes are huge for consumers.

In the past, credit card issuers could change account terms, including interest rates and fees, without giving much notice. Now, according to the new laws, lenders must give account holders at least 45 days advance notice of significant changes.

Other big changes include informing customers of the right to cancel an account and that cancelling does not require the users to immediately pay off the balance. Further changes include:

• Monthly credit card bills must disclose the dates by which payments must be received to avoid late penalties and the dates that late fees will be charged to the accounts.
• Card issuers must include warnings in monthly statements indicating consumers who only make minimum payments that the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt in full and the interest they will pay will increase.
• Card issuers must disclose whether interest rates will increase if one or more payments are not received on time and what the penalty interest rate will be. This notice must appear on the monthly statement near the payment due date.
• Consumers can opt out of significant changes in terms to their accounts, including interest rate hikes and increase in fees and other charges.
• Cardholders who are more than 60 days late making payments do not have the right to opt out of APR increases.
• Credit card issuers must inform card users of the right to cancel when they mail the 45-day advance notice of the change in terms.
• Opting out is not considered defaulting on the account and should not be penalized by the card issuers.
• Issuers cannot demand payment in full of the outstanding balance or charge monthly maintenance fees on closed accounts if the consumer rejects the changes in terms.
• Opting out does not include raising minimum monthly payments required as this would actually be better for the consumer and pay off the card balance earlier.

“Currently opting out of interest rate hikes is only granted at the card issuer’s discretion and is not a consumer right,” Vanderpool said. “Opting out will allow the consumer to pay the old, lower interest rate but will not allow further purchases on the card.”

She said there are three methods for repaying balances on accounts that have been closed by consumers choosing to reject changes. They are: paying the balance over at least five years, charging a minimum payment that is up to twice the percentage charged before the change in terms and using the same repayment plan used on the account at the time the consumer rejects the change in terms.

Vanderpool said retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances are banned except when an introductory period ends, the interest rate is tied to an index and is variable, the card user completes the terms of a workout plan for debt repayment or fails to comply with a workout plan or the card user is more than 60 days late making monthly payments.

Vanderpool said consumers younger than 21 who are not authorized users on a parent’s account must show proof of income to repay credit card loan or have an adult co-signer if they want accounts in their own names.
About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/02/2016 10:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Jacob Tanner, Sequoyah High School assistant baseball and softball coach, died on April 28 at age 61. “We are deeply saddened to unexpectedly lose such a valued and respected member of our Sequoyah High School family,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said. “Coach Tanner was a great mentor, teacher and coach for our students. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” Tanner, known for always smiling, served as the assistant baseball and fast-pitch softball coach and science teacher at Sequoyah since 2006. He also sponsored the robotics program at Sequoyah. “Coach Tanner was very well liked and respected by students, staff and faculty. His passing is a great loss for our Sequoyah family, and we will miss him greatly. Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with his family, players, students, colleagues and all who will be grieving this loss,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Tanner served more than 35 years in education, including his time at Sequoyah. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on May 4 in The Place Where They Play gym.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/27/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Employees from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment are once again celebrating the spring season by volunteering in a statewide initiative to make Oklahoma cleaner, greener and more beautiful. Joining the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for the 28th annual Trash-OFF, employees from the tribe’s corporate and entertainment properties cleared trash and debris from alongside local roadways. Trash-OFF is Oklahoma’s signature event in the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program. Each spring, Trash-OFF brings together thousands of volunteers working to improve the state’s appearance and the safety of its roads. The official Trash-OFF cleanup day was April 23, but the annual effort is held from March 1 through May 31. CNB and CNE employees are volunteering throughout April and May. “The Trash-OFF is a great way to unite communities and show pride in Oklahoma,” said Melody Johnson, ODOT Beautification coordinator. “We are fortunate to have so many caring people pitch in to keep our land grand.” The effort to make Oklahoma roads cleaner and safer for motorists is part of a longstanding partnership between CNB and ODOT. CNB’S involvement with cleanup projects, such as Trash-OFF and the Adopt-A-Highway program, are coordinated through the company’s Community Impact Team, which helps promote volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. “We live in such a beautiful part of this country. It is an honor to be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the two-mile stretch of Highway 59 South, near our casino,” said Amber Nelson, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw marketing manager, “Many of our team members drive that route every day and feel proud each time they see the Adopt-A-Highway sign with our name on it.” To beautify local communities, CNB and CNE have additional cleanup days scheduled throughout the year. All eight of CNE’s Cherokee Casinos and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have separate CIT teams that also participate in ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/26/2016 03:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to courthouse officials, the Cherokee Courthouse will be closed on April 27-28 for building maintenance. “We will be open on Friday for normal business hours,” officials said. The courthouse is located at 101 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-458-9440.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/25/2016 03:30 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on April 19 to uphold a federal law aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands. The case argued at the high court tests whether the law and its stiff prison terms can be used against defendants who did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts. The U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out a 46-month federal prison term for defendant Michael Bryant Jr. because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Several justices seemed skeptical of the argument of Bryant's lawyer, Steven Babcock. Bryant never challenged his earlier convictions or prison sentences of up to a year. Congress has put limits on prison terms imposed by tribal courts. "So if it's a valid conviction, why can't you use it?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked. Babcock said the use of the earlier convictions in prosecuting Bryant on new charges violated his constitutional right to a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them. Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar said Congress, in 2005, provided for prosecutions in federal court and lengthier penalties for repeat offenders "in response to the epidemic of domestic violence in Indian Country." Bryant has more than 100 tribal court convictions on his record, including five domestic violence convictions between 1997 and 2007, the government said. In 1999, he attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend and hit her over the head with a beer bottle, the government said. In 2007, Bryant beat up his girlfriend and kneed her in the face, breaking her nose, the government said. In 2011, federal agents arrested him under the law at issue on charges he beat two women in the span of several months. Prelogar said the appeals court was wrong to rule in favor of defendants like Bryant "who have abused and battered their intimate partners again and again." A decision in U.S. v. Bryant, 15-420, is expected by late June.