Whether you want to buy a new house or a new car, opt for higher studies abroad, or expand your business, credit is necessary. The Federal Trade Commission has the responsibility to oversee that fair credit opportunity is extended to all. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is the chief tool for the implementation.
As per the provisions of this act, credit discrimination is prohibited on grounds of national origin, race, religion, color, sex, marital status, age, and availability of public assistance. Creditors may inquire about these informations, however, they have no right to use these to decide whether to give you credit, or what terms to set.
The credit extending entity could be any – individual, bank, financing company, etc. The law provides protection to all debtors. The question is how would you know if any discrimination has occurred? If you suspect discrimination on such protected grounds, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer specializing in this field of consumer protection.
Why is legal help important? Without adequate legal assistance, you may interpret things wrongly. If you don’t get the credit and you find the terms different, it may have causes other than discriminatory grounds like income, expenditure, credit history, and such others. Only a competent lawyer can help ascertain discrimination.
Next is the question of what you can do to stop this practice. You can take various steps in this regard:
- Contact the creditor and file a complaint. At times, this approach could help persuade the creditor to consider your application again.
- If there is a denial of credit, contact the appropriate government agency and report violation under ECOA. (You can get the contact details of the agency from the creditor.)
- Get in touch with the Attorney General’s Office of your state and check if there was a violation of the state equal credit opportunity laws.
However, the wise thing to do would be to discuss the issue with a consumer lawyer and ask him/her for advice. If you have a case, your lawyer can sue the creditor and claim punitive damages for any willful violations of ECOA. The court may also order you reasonable court fees and attorney costs if you can prove your claim.
If others have faced the same problem and want to sue the same creditor on the same grounds like yours, get together and file a class action. Whether you want to sue separately or as part of class action, you need a capable lawyer for the job.