Glossary Terms

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

A federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status or receipt of income from public assistance programs.

Many people need help to make their major purchases.  Often this help comes in the form of credit.  The Equal Credit Opportunity Act ensures that certain pieces of personal data are not considered when consumers apply for credit.

Of course, when applying for credit, there are certain criteria which creditors require of their potential customers.  For instance, creditors are allowed to consider factors such as income, outstanding debt, expenses and credit history when a consumer applies for credit.  All of these factors are important to creditors because they help determine whether to approve you for credit and for how much.

Creditors, cannot, on the other hand, consider your racial or ethnic background, age, sex, or marital status when you apply for credit.  They are also prohibited from considering whether or not you receive public assistance.

Once a creditor decides to give you credit, there may be restrictions regarding your age.  If you are a minor or over 62 years old, creditors may consider these factors.  Similarly, if your age indicates that your might retire and subsequently receive a smaller income, creditors are allowed to factor in these circumstances.
If you suspect that a creditor has considered the prohibited information, you should immediately file a complaint with the company.  There is a chance that there was an error that could be corrected.  If the issue is not resolved and you feel you were unfairly denied credit, you can contact the government at:
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580.
The Federal Trade Commission does not resolve disputes, but does track possible violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.