Cap on late fees hurts businesses and consumers Sean...


February 20, 2000

Cap on late fees hurts businesses and consumers

Sean Somerville's article on the late fees issue ("Bill to target restrictions on late fees," Jan. 9) provided valuable information regarding the recent court decision which invalidated business late fees of more than 6 percent per annum. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which represents 1,100 businesses strongly believes that a 6 percent cap on late fees is not only unfair, but it would impose potentially devastating cash flow problems for small business. In addition, this limitation would burden the average consumer with higher costs for goods and services.

While the court case focused on late fee charges of $5 per month by a cable company, the court's findings have impacted most businesses in Maryland. (Some are covered by separate statute, such as credit card companies and some utilities.) A late fee of only 6 percent a year, or 50 cents a month on a bill of $100, provides absolutely no incentive for anyone to pay a bill on time. If everyone decided not to pay a company's bill on time, what recourse would that business have besides raising costs across the board?

Businesses, especially small businesses, have to take into account cash flow as well as the cost of collecting delinquent bills. Even educational institutions would have a problem collecting late tuition fees if students or their parents decide they can earn more interest with their investments while incurring such a low late fee. Dentists, doctors, child care, lawn care, rental companies and hundreds of other types of businesses would be also be negatively impacted. Not allowing a reasonable late fee will result in serious cash flow problems. Incentives to consumers to pay bills on time make it possible for businesses to pay their creditors on time. Failing to meet a reasonable deadline to pay a bill should result in a fairly assessed late fee.

Business generates economic success by providing jobs, paying considerable taxes and contributing to the community in a wide variety of ways.

This class action suit, for which its out-of-state attorneys received one third of the settlement, poses a major problem for businesses of all sizes in Maryland. The Maryland Chamber of Commercepledges its full support for late fee legislation to protect consumers and help business grow.

Kathleen T. Snyder


The writer is president/CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Charter schools are needed for 21st century

We need charter schools in Maryland.

They will encourage innovation, creativity and critical thinking that is not always possible in traditional public schools.

Charter schools will help some students learn and grow and be ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

We should never be afraid to open our doors to new programs and new ideas.

Thomas Rose


Project Disarm is a weak imitation

After reading your editorial ("Anti-gun effort here undermined by PR gap," Feb. 14) extolling Project Disarm's great success, I couldn't help but wonder what fantasy world you've been living in. Disarm, a pale shadow of Exile, is a classic example of a weak imitation that in concept and execution lacks the right ingredients for success.

The best advertising comes from word of mouth.

That happens when a product invariably does what it is supposed to.

Exile operates with no plea bargains, no exceptions and no question as to what will happen to a criminal that uses a firearm.

Disarm is nothing more than a catchy name tied to the same sorry tale of prosecutorial reluctance that has plagued the city for years; and the criminals know it.

The ever lengthening string of 300-plus annual homicides in Baltimore should provide even The Sun with stark evidence that Disarm doesn't work; but you'd rather believe that all Lynn Battaglia's sad package is lacking is good advertising.

Good grief, get serious. Discard Disarm, endorse Exile.

W.C. Harsanyi


Cowherd's column helps `start day with a smile'

I look forward with eager anticipation to the Thursday edition of The Sun because there on the front page of the Today section I'll find Kevin Cowherd's column.

His wry sense of humor and turn of phrase are guaranteed to start my day with a smile and a chuckle

His Feb. 4 column "Ode to the snowplow man" was a gem. If you are interested in what age group he appeals to, I readily admit that I have been referred to as "senior citizen" for more than a couple of years.

Coryne Minton


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