Editor's Note: This page contains the full-text reproduction of FTC's Facts for Consumers: "Equal Credit Opportunity: Understanding Your Rights Under the Law". Read this pamphlet now so that you can understand your equal credit opportunity rights.
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Facts for Consumers:
People use credit to pay for education or a house, a remodeling job or a car, or to finance a loan to keep their business operating.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because you get public assistance. Creditors may ask you for most of this information in certain situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to give you credit or when setting the terms of your credit. Not everyone who applies for credit gets it or gets the same terms: Factors like income, expenses, debts, and credit history are among the considerations lenders use to determine your creditworthiness.
The law provides protections when you deal with any organizations or people who regularly extend credit, including banks, small loan and finance companies, retail and department stores, credit card companies, and credit unions. Everyone who participates in the decision to grant credit or in setting the terms of that credit, including real estate brokers who arrange financing, must comply with the ECOA.
Here’s a brief summary of the basic provisions of the ECOA.
I. When You Apply For Credit, Creditors May Not...
II. When Deciding To Grant You Credit Or When Setting The Terms Of Credit, Creditors May Not...
III. When Evaluating Your Income, Creditors May Not...
IV. You Also Have The Right To...
V. A Special Note To Women
A good credit history — a record of your bill payments — often is necessary to get credit. This can hurt many married, separated, divorced, and widowed women. Typically, there are two reasons women don’t have credit histories in their own names: either they lost their credit histories when they married and changed their names, or creditors reported accounts shared by married couples in the husband’s name only.
If you’re married, separated, divorced, or widowed, contact your local consumer reporting companies to make sure all relevant bill payment information is in a file under your own name. Your credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. National consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that, in turn, use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to give you a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. To order your report, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from here.
VI. If You Suspect a Creditor has Discriminated Against You, Take Action.
A number of federal agencies share enforcement responsibility for the ECOA. Determining which agency to contact depends on the type of financial institution you dealt with.
For retail and department stores; mortgage, small loan and consumer finance companies; oil companies; public utilities; state credit unions; government lending programs; or travel and expense credit card companies are involved, contact:Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Washington, DC 20580
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357);TDD: 1-866-653-4261
The FTC generally does not intervene in individual disputes, but the information you provide may indicate a pattern of violations that the Commission would investigate.
For nationally-charted banks (National or N.A. will be part of the name):Comptroller of the Currency
Consumer Assistance Group
1301 McKinney Street
Houston, TX 77010-9050
For state-chartered banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, but not members of the Federal Reserve System:Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Consumer Response Center
2345 Grand Boulevard
Kansas City, MO 64108
For federally-chartered or federally-insured savings and loans:Office of Thrift Supervision
1700 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20552
1-800-842-6929; TTY: 800-877-8339
For federally-chartered credit unions:National Credit Union Administration
1775 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3437
For state member banks of the Federal Reserve System:Federal Reserve Consumer Help Center
P.O. Box 1200
Minneapolis, MN 55480
1-888-851-1920; TDD: 877-766-8533
For discrimination complaints against all kinds of creditors:Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Washington, DC 20530
Still Not Sure Who to Contact?
If you can’t figure out which federal agency has responsibility for the financial institution you dealt with, visit www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov or call 1-888-851-1920.
For More Information
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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