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Comment for 1002.4 - General Rules

Paragraph 4(a).

1. Scope of rule. The general rule stated in § 1002.4(a) covers all dealings, without exception, between an applicant and a creditor, whether or not addressed by other provisions of the regulation. Other provisions of the regulation identify specific practices that the Bureau has decided are impermissible because they could result in credit discrimination on a basis prohibited by the Act. The general rule covers, for example, application procedures, criteria used to evaluate creditworthiness, administration of accounts, and treatment of delinquent or slow accounts. Thus, whether or not specifically prohibited elsewhere in the regulation, a credit practice that treats applicants differently on a prohibited basis violates the law because it violates the general rule. Disparate treatment on a prohibited basis is illegal whether or not it results from a conscious intent to discriminate.

2. Examples.

i. Disparate treatment would exist, for example, in the following situations:

A. A creditor provides information only on “subprime” and similar products to minority applicants who request information about the creditor's mortgage products, but provides information on a wider variety of mortgage products to similarly situated nonminority applicants.

B. A creditor provides more comprehensive information to men than to similarly situated women.

C. A creditor requires a minority applicant to provide greater documentation to obtain a loan than a similarly situated nonminority applicant.

D. A creditor waives or relaxes credit standards for a nonminority applicant but not for a similarly situated minority applicant.

ii. Treating applicants differently on a prohibited basis is unlawful if the creditor lacks a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its action, or if the asserted reason is found to be a pretext for discrimination.

Paragraph 4(b).

1. Prospective applicants. Generally, the regulation's protections apply only to persons who have requested or received an extension of credit. In keeping with the purpose of the Act - to promote the availability of credit on a nondiscriminatory basis - § 1002.4(b) covers acts or practices directed at prospective applicants that could discourage a reasonable person, on a prohibited basis, from applying for credit. Practices prohibited by this section include:

i. A statement that the applicant should not bother to apply, after the applicant states that he is retired.

ii. The use of words, symbols, models or other forms of communication in advertising that express, imply, or suggest a discriminatory preference or a policy of exclusion in violation of the Act.

iii. The use of interview scripts that discourage applications on a prohibited basis.

2. Affirmative advertising. A creditor may affirmatively solicit or encourage members of traditionally disadvantaged groups to apply for credit, especially groups that might not normally seek credit from that creditor.

Paragraph 4(c).

1. Requirement for written applications. Model application forms are provided in appendix B to the regulation, although use of a printed form is not required. A creditor will satisfy the requirement by writing down the information that it normally considers in making a credit decision. The creditor may complete an application on behalf of an applicant and need not require the applicant to sign the application.

2. Telephone applications. A creditor that accepts applications by telephone for dwelling-related credit covered by § 1002.13 can meet the requirement for written applications by writing down pertinent information that is provided by the applicant.

3. Computerized entry. Information entered directly into and retained by a computerized system qualifies as a written application under this paragraph. (See the commentary to § 1002.13(b), Applications through electronic media and Applications through video.)

Paragraph 4(d).

1. Clear and conspicuous. This standard requires that disclosures be presented in a reasonably understandable format in a way that does not obscure the required information. No minimum type size is mandated, but the disclosures must be legible, whether typewritten, handwritten, or printed by computer.

2. Form of disclosures. Whether the disclosures required to be on or with an application must be in electronic form depends upon the following:

i. If an applicant accesses a credit application electronically (other than as described under ii below), such as online at a home computer, the creditor must provide the disclosures in electronic form (such as with the application form on its Web site) in order to meet the requirement to provide disclosures in a timely manner on or with the application. If the creditor instead mailed paper disclosures to the applicant, this requirement would not be met.

ii. In contrast, if an applicant is physically present in the creditor's office, and accesses a credit application electronically, such as via a terminal or kiosk (or if the applicant uses a terminal or kiosk located on the premises of an affiliate or third party that has arranged with the creditor to provide applications to consumers), the creditor may provide disclosures in either electronic or paper form, provided the creditor complies with the timing, delivery, and retainability requirements of the regulation.