La Polar scandal shows bank, retail cards should have same rules - former ABIF head

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hernán Somerville, former head of Chilean banking association ABIF, said credit cards issued by banks and private label cards issued by retailers should be under the same regulatory supervision, local daily La Segunda reported.

Somerville made his comments in light of the financial scandal at retailer La Polar, following its announcement two weeks ago that it may have to set aside as much as 200bn pesos (US$430mn) in provisions for bad loans in its credit card portfolio. It has since hiked this estimate to 538bn pesos.

"Since 2001, ABIF has called for private label cards to be under the same rules that govern banks' credit and debit cards, because private [label] cards can not only be used in retail stores, but also in several commercial establishments, due to commercial agreements [between retailers and those establishments]," the daily quoted Somerville as saying.

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Somerville said it was the lobbying power of the retail sector - one of the country's largest business sectors - that prompted authorities not to consider ABIF's recommendations.

But the former ABIF head noted that La Polar scandal's impact is limited, and that it is highly unlikely that the entire retail sector could face the same problems as those revealed at La Polar, the report said.