Consumer Confidential: GOP block, Amazon discount, credit card debt

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Here’s your thick-as-a-brick Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--As expected, Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on whether to approve President Obama’s pick to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. GOP lawmakers say they have nothing against former Ohio Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray. They just don’t like the agency, which is intended to keep an eye on credit card issuers, mortgage lenders and others with a track record for -- how shall we put it? -- not always acting in consumers’ best interest. Republicans want to water down the agency’s leadership structure, and they say they won’t approve anyone to run the show until they get what they want. I’ll have more on this in my Friday column.

--Amazon is stepping up its game. The online retail heavyweight says it will give customers a 5% discount if they check out the price of something in a brick-and-mortar store and then buy it via the Net from Amazon. The trick is Amazon’s Price Check app, which allows users to instantaneously check to see whether Amazon sells the same merchandise for a better price. This Saturday, app users will get that 5% discount below whatever the store’s price may be. Amazon’s app is available for the iPhone and Android smartphones at no cost to the user. You can do a price check by scanning an item’s bar code or typing in a search query, or even by snapping a photo or saying the product name. Needless to say, real-world stores aren’t happy about the promotion. (

--But go a little easy on the spending. Consumers piled on $16.8 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter, up 154% from the same quarter last year, according to The news comes on the heels of a report by First Data that credit card spending in the U.S. rose in the first three quarters of the year. The Great Recession may have promoted many consumers to put away their plastic for a while, but they are apparently spending again -- big time. Based on the results of its study,’s latest projection is that consumers will end 2011 with roughly $64 billion more in credit card debt than they began it with. Ouch. (


-- David Lazarus