CBC Digital Archives

Is regulation required for credit card companies?

In 1968, Canadians first got their hands on credit cards, making it faster and easier to spend money they didn't necessarily have. Aside from their plastic, many Canadians also deal with the varying burdens of student loans, mortgages and all the other factors that contribute to personal debt. The CBC Digital Archives looks back on the times and troubles of personal debt in Canada, exploring how we get into debt and how we might avoid it.

Consumer credit is very easy to come by in 1970, and Canadians take advantage of it like few others. In the preceding two decades, the volume of outstanding consumer credit has increased an eye-popping 1,200 per cent and now stands at nearly $12 billion. This easy access to credit gets many consumers in trouble, yet banks are tripping over one another to offer Canadians more ways to rack up debt. The government has just backed off on plans to restrict consumer credit, but was that the right move? In this 1970 broadcast, CBC Radio's Bruno Gerussi asks consumer law expert Jacob Ziegel whether the government should protect consumers from creditors ... and from themselves.

• In Canada, the responsibility for consumer protection is shared by the provincial and federal governments between several acts of legislation. The act that regulates interest rates and credit is the 1991 federal Bank Act, although Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan all have provincial consumer protection acts as well.

• Charles Dickens once defined credit as "a system whereby a person who can not pay gets another person who can not pay to guarantee that he can pay." Dickens had an understandably dark view of credit and debt; his father was sent to debtor's prison when Charles was 12 years old and the young Dickens was forced to work in a shoe factory. His introduction to the world of child labour and the working poor influenced his later writing, most famously in Oliver Twist.

• Canadian naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton was once saddled with a debt almost all people run up but are rarely asked to pay back. He claimed that at age 21, his father presented him with a bill for all the costs incurred in raising him, including the fee of the doctor who delivered him. Furthermore, Seton claimed to have paid it, although some, including his brother, said the story was an exaggeration.

Medium: Radio
Program: Gerussi!
Broadcast Date: June 8, 1970
Guest(s): Jacob Ziegel
Host: Bruno Gerussi
Duration: 7:20
Photo: by jessica @ flickr, used under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Last updated: November 7, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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