The Costa Rican Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) enacted on March 30 2010 new rules to further regulate the credit and debit cards market, in an effort to bolster consumer protection. These new rules are seen by MEIC as necessary due to the continued evolution of the local market. They also respond to international regulatory trends, following, among others, the US and Australia.
The new set of rules integrally amend and expand existing bylaws. Regulations now apply expressly to debit cards. Aimed to provide consumers with further detailed information on their credit or debit cards transactions, the new bylaws regulate the form and content of credit card use agreements and establish maximum late charge fees.
In order to implement the bylaws, several banks and other financial institutions will have to undertake major changes to their billing statements and ATMs' systems. The Banks and Financial Entities Chamber of Costa Rica (CBF) recently opposed certain provisions of the bylaws, mostly those concerning the implementation timeframes. Moreover, the CBF argue that the new mechanism for disputed payments will be too burdensome and impossible to process with their international providers.
The market supervisors, MEIC, are required under the bylaws to publish every three months, comparative studies on credit cards and debit cards being offered in the Costa Rican Market. Such studies will provide financial information on the latest interest rates, fees, additional charges, payment due dates and benefits, at no cost to the cardholder.
Mauricio Salas and Jacobo Alter
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