David Prosser: Credit where it is due

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The Independent Online

Outlook How times change. Only five years ago, the nation's shoppers routinely congratulated each other on how they had managed to outwit the credit card companies. Egged on by internet chat forums, borrowers moved thousands of pounds from card to card, taking advantage of interest-free offers and racking up free debt.

In this post-credit crunch world, it now turns out that it was we who got mugged. All that switching of debt left us with borrowing trapped on plastic with punitive rates of interest. And all that extra credit tempted us to borrow more than we ever should have.

It is the victors who get to write history, and now the Government has had to rescue the banking sector, it gets to lay down the law. So we're getting a raft of new rules on how lenders should behave: notably, the outlawing of practices such as putting repayments towards cheaper debts first and extending credit limits without borrowers' explicit consent.

Still, credit card bosses can be forgiven for wondering what happened to the idea of personal responsibility. Were all those borrowers who jumped from card to card really conned into over-extending themselves?

Or did they just not bother to read the small print, or think about how they might pay the money back, because they were too busy enjoying the idea that they were taking lenders to the cleaners?