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Consumer Confidential: New plastic rules, less shrimp, a piece o' Tesla

June 15, 2010 | 10:18 am

Here's your tree-frog Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- The Federal Reserve has unveiled its new credit-card rules, and consumers will probably like what they see. Under the new rules, which take effect Aug. 22, most penalties for use of plastic will be limited to $25, and you can't be penalized for not using your card. Also, late fees can't exceed the amount that sparked the penalty. For example, if you're tardy making a minimum payment of $20, your late fee can't exceed $20. Moreover, you can't be charged again for a single infraction. A single late payment can't result in multiple fees. All in all, some much-needed improvements.

-- Here comes the fallout: Even if you don't live along one of the coasts that will likely be awash in oil for God knows how long, the collateral damage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will soon hit home for all of us -- especially if you like a good shrimp cocktail from time to time. Shrimp production in Louisiana is down by nearly a third, and that will inevitably drive prices higher. It's unclear how pricey America's favorite seafood will become. But experts say it's a certainty you'll be paying more for at least a while.

-- Want a piece of a cool car company? Tesla Motors Inc., maker of super-spiffy electric cars, plans to raise $167 million through an initial public offering of Tesla stock later this year. The offering values the Palo Alto company at about $1.5 billion -- a fraction of Ford's $39-billion market value but not bad for an upstart outfit. Toyota already is set to acquire a 3.6% stake in Tesla. Hopefully, all the cash rolling into the company's coffers will help it develop next-generation, eco-friendly vehicles that will prompt Detroit to step up its game as well.

-- David Lazarus