A recent national public opinion poll highlighted that 1 in 5 Canadian credit card customers received new premium cards without requesting them. Even more disturbing is the fact that the poor, elderly and uneducated were among the group that received the premium cards. Are credit card companies pushing expensive debt to unsolicited, high risk customers?

The survey looked at credit card holders and asked them if they had received a new premium card in the last year, a card with benefits such as reward points or air miles. 22% of respondents said they had received one without even asking for it – a number which is considerably higher than what the credit card companies publically state.

News of this poll comes just days after The White House announced that it is considering a credit card bill of rights which will help to address the countries ever increasing personal debt problem. The House and the Senate are looking at options such as limiting the ability of credit card companies to raise interest rates on existing debt and demanding greater disclosure.

Is this yet another area where governments will need to step in to ensure that corporations are acting responsibly? Should we not just be demanding basic business ethics where credit card companies logically target only the most appropriate customers, those who can clearly manage their debt?

Before the Canadian government follows in the steps of the US, some might ask why consumers shouldn’t just be held responsible for their own spending habits. If someone is frivolous enough to spend more than they can afford, surely they are ultimately responsible. But, if you’re a low income earner already ridden with debt, with bills to pay and mouths to feed, it’s tough to ignore the plastic carrot that’s dangling right in front of your face.

Obviously any solution will need to involve all parties – credit card companies acting more responsibly, users understanding and accepting their limits and governments appropriately enforcing it all. That may sound like the Holy Grail – but it’s a goal well worth aiming for.