The Administration and Congress Mull Changes to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Mar 20, 2019 | News

Earlier today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a request for comments on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), a federal law that makes it illegal for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant on the basis of certain characteristics. Congressional Democrats have also proposed several changes to ECOA in 2019 that would broaden the law’s scope.

Currently, ECOA makes it unlawful for a credit applicant to be discriminated against based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age. It also prohibits discrimination on the basis that all or part of the applicant’s income derives from a public assistance program or on the basis that the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

The CFPB’s Request for Comments is specifically seeking information on:

  1. Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  2. The accuracy of the Bureau’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methods and the assumptions used;
  3. Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  4. Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

The open comment period ends on May 20, 2019.

In addition, Congressional Democrats have introduced two bills that would broaden ECOA to cover additional groups. Congressman Al Green (D-TX-9) introduced the Fair Lending for All Act on January 3 that would include protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and an applicant’s location based on zip code or census tract.

Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI-1) introduced a bill last week that would modify ECOA in a similar way. The Equality Act would include additional protections for gender identity and sexual orientation.

In recent years, Congressional attempts to broaden ECOA have failed to make it out of Committee.

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