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Consumer Financial Rights

Consumers' financial rights are protected by federal and state laws and regulations covering many services offered by financial institutions. This article will assist organizations which often receive complaints about banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions in referring complaints to the proper regulatory agency.


FEDERAL LAWS

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Loans

Adjustable-rate mortgage loans are covered by regulations that require, at a minimum, disclosure of the circumstances under which the rate may increase, any limitations on the increase, the effects of an increase and an example of the payment terms that would result from an increase.

Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act requires federal agencies to encourage depository financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of their communities, including low- and moderate- income neighborhoods. The regulatory agencies assess the institutions' records of meeting those credit needs by preparing a written evaluation of the institutions and assigning a rating with facts supporting the conclusions. Such ratings shall be disclosed to the public for examinations beginning July 1, 1990. The Act also requires regulatory agencies to consider an institution's record of helping to meet community credit needs when evaluating certain corporate applications, such as permission to establish a branch, to relocate a branch or home office, or to merge.

Consumer Leasing Act

The Consumer Leasing Act requires disclosure of information that helps consumers compare the cost and terms of various leases and the cost and terms of buying on credit versus cash. The Act does not apply to real estate leases or to leases of four months or less.

Credit Practices Rule

The Credit Practices Rule prohibits lenders from using certain remedies, such as confessions of judgment; wage assignments; and nonpossessory, nonpurchase money, security interests in household goods. The rule also prohibits lenders from misrepresenting a cosigner's liability and requires that lenders provide cosigners with a notice explaining their credit obligation as a cosigner. It also prohibits the pyramiding of late charges.

Electronic Fund Transfer Act

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides consumer protection for all transactions using a debit card or electronic means to debit or credit an account. It also limits a consumer's liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against an applicant for credit because of age, sex, marital status, religion, race, color, national origin, or receipt of public assistance. It also prohibits discrimination because of a good faith exercise of any rights under the federal consumer credit laws. If a consumer has been denied credit, the law requires notification of the denial in writing. The consumer may request, within 60 days, that the reason for denial be provided in writing.

Expedited Funds Availability Act

The Expedited Funds Availability Act requires all banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions to make funds deposited into checking, share draft and NOW accounts available according to specified time schedules and to disclose their funds availability policies to their customers. The law does not require an institution to delay the customer's use of deposited funds but instead limits how long any delay may last. The regulation also establishes rules designed to speed the return of unpaid checks.

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