Bureau takes additional steps to foster an inclusive financial system
I am pleased to announce that the Bureau has published the "Statement Regarding the Provision of Financial Products and Services to Consumers with Limited English Proficiency." The Statement provides principles and guidelines to inform and assist financial institutions seeking to better serve LEP consumers in non-English languages. I encourage you to view our new Statement and other LEP resources at https://www.consumerfinance.gov.
Currently, many LEP consumers are not fully integrated into the financial marketplace despite being a significant portion of the U.S. population (approximately 25.5 million individuals). Due to language access issues, LEP consumers face unique challenges in learning about and accessing financial products, services, and education tools; understanding and completing key financial documents; managing bank accounts; and resolving issues with financial products and institutions. For example, financial disclosures and written documents are generally not available in non-English languages.
During my tenure, the Bureau has devoted substantial efforts to foster an inclusive financial system. In the Bureau’s 2019 Fair Lending Report to Congress, I noted innovation will be a key component in creating a more inclusive financial marketplace for LEP consumers. Additionally, through Requests for Information (RFIs) and public events, the Bureau gained insights into how we can promote the integration of LEP consumers into the financial marketplace, while also ensuring LEP consumers are neither harmed nor exploited by discrimination or unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (UDAAPs) prohibited by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. To that end, I asked for public feedback on how to best protect LEP consumers in a July 2020 blog post.
The Bureau received significant feedback through its stakeholder outreach, including its recent Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) RFI. The feedback indicated that some financial institutions do not have bilingual employees or interpretation services. The feedback also indicated that financial institutions recognize the importance of providing financial products and services to LEP consumers but are cautious of running afoul of statutes and regulations. Industry and trade association stakeholders’ specific concerns were:
- How do financial institutions avoid fair lending risks under ECOA when making and implementing decisions about language selection for non-English language services?
- How do financial institutions avoid UDAAPs, when determining how and in which languages to offer products and services?
During a July 2020 roundtable focused on LEP issues, consumer and civil rights advocates along with representatives from the financial industry, urged the Bureau to provide additional guidance to institutions, so they could expand their product and service offerings to LEP consumers, while maintaining compliance with statutes and regulations.
The effective and responsible integration of LEP consumers into the financial marketplace has the potential to create positive benefits for consumers and the financial services industry alike. The Statement we are publishing today issues guidance on how financial institutions can serve LEP consumers in non-English languages, in a manner that is beneficial to consumers and that is in compliance with statutes and regulations. Specifically, today’s Statement imparts:
- Principles to inform and guide financial institutions in their decision-making related to serving LEP consumers, and
- Key considerations and guidelines institutions can use to develop compliance solutions for providing products and services in non-English languages to LEP consumers.
At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we are committed to ensuring a fair, transparent, and competitive financial marketplace for all consumers, including LEP consumers.