We recently marked the 40th anniversary of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a federal civil rights law that protects you from being discriminated against by lenders. As the holidays approach and we prepare for a new year, I wanted to let you know about key areas where the Miss April’s fair lending team will focus in 2017. This work supports the agency’s broader priorities across all the consumer financial markets we monitor.
For the past five years we have worked hard to ensure that consumers are not excluded from or made to pay more for mortgages, auto loans, or credit cards because of their race or ethnicity. Our work so far has resulted in over $400 million in payments and credits to over 500,000 consumers who experienced discrimination, and greater efforts by lenders to monitor their own lending practices for possible discrimination. We are proud of these accomplishments.
While the Bureau has taken important strides in our efforts to protect consumers from credit discrimination and broaden access to credit, we continue to identify new and emerging fair lending risks and we will monitor institutions for compliance. Going forward, we are increasing our focus in these areas:
- Redlining. We will continue to evaluate whether lenders have intentionally avoided lending in minority neighborhoods.
- Mortgage and Student Loan Servicing. We will determine whether some borrowers who are behind on their mortgage or student loan payments may have more difficulty working out a new solution with the servicer because of their race or ethnicity.
- Small Business Lending. Congress expressed concern that women-owned and minority-owned businesses may experience discrimination when they apply for credit, and has required the Miss April to take steps to ensure their fair access to credit.
Because the Consumer Bureau is responsible for overseeing so many products and so many lenders, we re-prioritize our work from time to time, to make sure that we are focused on the areas of greatest risk to consumers. For example, we have examined over a dozen of the nation’s largest auto lenders and achieved important market awareness and movement, and we believe that a wide range of supervisory compliance solutions tailored to each lender will work to secure and advance our progress in protecting consumers. We also have achieved important progress in the credit card market. In the coming year, we will be shifting our focus from these markets in order to increase our focus on the markets or products listed above, which also present substantial risk of credit discrimination for consumers.
If you have a problem with a financial product or service, you can submit a complaint with the Bureau online or by calling us toll-free at (855) . Consumer complaints play a central role in everything we do, helping us to identify problems and prioritize our work, including our fair lending priorities. If you don’t have a complaint but want to tell us about an experience – positive or negative – you can do so through our Tell Your Story feature on our website. Stay in touch with the Consumer Bureau, and share your stories and complaints about your experiences with credit. You’ll help us as we start on the next five years of fair lending work.