Some watchdog • The newly christened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has backed away from a rule that would have prevented banks from charging fees that amount to more than 25 percent of a borrower's credit limit in the account's first year. Instead, creditors will be allowed to charge unlimited fees before an account is activated, leading to amounts well beyond the 25 percent limit. Banks and credit card companies argue that they must charge the high fees to subprime borrowers because they are an extreme credit risk. Without such accounts, borrowers with spotty credit might not be able to establish a better credit rating that eventually would make it possible for them to get a home loan, according to the lenders. Still, it's not an auspicious start for an agency that is supposed to crack down on excessive fees and other forms of credit card abuse. It's another example of how the concept of usury doesn't exist anymore.
Beware tax day drivers • A new study puts a different spin on Ben Franklin's adage about nothing in this world being certain except death and taxes. It appears that tax day, which this year falls on April 17 (Tuesday), coincides with an increase in the number of fatal automobile accidents. Researchers aren't sure whether some drivers are distracted or distraught by thoughts about their income-tax burden, or whether some of them take too many risks as they race to the post office to mail their returns in time to get a postmark on the deadline. Because drivers are most safe on familiar routes, some experts speculate that more people die because tax-filers are not accustomed to driving to the post office. Whatever the reason, researchers examined data for 30 years and found that the traffic death rate on tax day was 6 percent higher than on other April days. That amounts to 13 more deaths than on other days. So if you're one of the last-minute filers, please try to concentrate on your driving. Or take public transit. Or file electronically. Meanwhile, everyone else should keep a sharp lookout.