WASHINGTON-The Federal Reserve Board approved a final rule recently amending Regulation B, implementing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Reg B amendments create an exception to allow creditors to collect nonmortgage applicants' personal characteristics to `self-test' for ECOA compliance. Also addressed in the changes is a 25-month record retention requirement for prescreened solicitations. The ECOA prohibits lending discrimination on the basis national origin, marital status, religion, color, sex, race, age, receipt of public assistance benefits, or the exercise of rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. In 1976, the Fed prohibited creditors from asking about or noting an applicant's characteristics. Restricting access to this information helped deter credit discrimination, but also prevents creditors from examining their lending policies and practices. The final rule amending Regulation B is effective April 15, 2003. However, to allow time for any necessary operational changes, the mandatory compliance date is April 15, 2004. If the results of a self-test indicate "it is more likely than not" that violations have occurred, the creditor must take corrective action. The results can be made privileged-be unobtainable in an examination or investigation alleging a violation of the ECOA-provided any violations have been rectified. Related information, like whether a self-test was conducted, methodology used, or scope, is not privileged. When conducting a self-test, creditors must reveal that responses to personal characteristics are optional and that it is being collected to monitor ECOA compliance, among other things. The regulation includes a model form. The Fed also amended the related official staff commentary that gives guidance on the regulation's requirements. [email protected]

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