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Watching TV for the Commercials

posted by Adam Levitin

I recently saw an amazing commercial on CNN Headline News for an operation called 1-800-Credit Card Debt. It appears to be some sort of debt adjustment agency. The CEO, a guy named, Tom Cooke, I think, was speaking and said "Don't let bankruptcy even enter your thoughts." I sure hope these guys are not allowed to serve as a BAPCPA credit counselor. (What I believe to be their website is a bit more balanced.) The commercial, though, raises the question of whether there are any ethical guidelines for credit counselors? What about liability? Malpractice? I would think that a credit counselor should be obligated to neutrally inform people of their full range of options under the law. For some folks, filing for bankruptcy is a wise decision.

Of course, this commercial was immediately followed by one for a Merrill Lynch Rewards Visa. From the commercial you’d think that Merrill was selling (or just giving away) rewards, not a payment product. The term the commercial used was “Earn points to use for rewards.” A more accurate phrasing would be buy points to use for things you would otherwise buy directly.” The combined message of these commercials—go out and earn rewards points, and when you get overextended don’t think about bankruptcy.

There’s a lot more to be said about rewards programs, particularly the question of who actually pays for them, but that’s for another post or two.

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