Bureau focuses on ‘limited English proficient’ issues in generating comments on equal credit info collection

In an effort to generate more comments by Dec. 1 on its request for information (RFI) on equal credit opportunity, the federal consumer financial protection agency is focusing on “limited English proficient” consumers and how they can be equitably served, according to a notice published Tuesday.

In the notice on the website of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency noted that 65 million people, or about 21% of the U.S. population over age five, speak a language other than English at home and that two-fifths of these have limited proficiency in English.

“Limited English Proficient (LEP) consumers often face numerous obstacles to accessing financial products and services, many stemming from language barriers,” the notice stated. “Financial disclosures and documents are often not available in LEP consumers’ preferred languages, and financial institutions may not have bilingual employees or access to interpretation services.”

The notice indicates that the RFI issued in August by the agency on ways to prevent credit discrimination (through the Equal Credit Opportunity Act [ECOA] and Regulation B) offers a channel for commenters to influence guidance from the agency on LEP issues. Comments are due by Dec. 1.

When the bureau issued the RFI in August, it said the information provided in response to the RFI will help it to continue exploring ways to address regulatory compliance challenges while fulfilling the agency’s mission of preventing unlawful discrimination and fostering innovation. It also acknowledged the RFI was in lieu of a symposium the bureau had planned to host on ECOA issues later this year.

The ECOA and Regulation B, the bureau stated, make it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital status, or age; because all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any public assistance program; or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Bureau seeks formal comments to inform forthcoming guidance on serving LEP consumers