Ford Motor Credit to Pay $650,000 to Settle FTC Charges It Violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 1999 -- The Federal Trade Commission has negotiated an agreement under which Ford Motor Credit Corp. will pay $650,000 for alleged violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

According to the FTC, for a 15-month period from May 1994 to August 1995, Ford Credit discriminated against certain credit applicants by failing to aggregate the income of unmarried joint applicants, while combining incomes for applicants who were married. As a result, the FTC alleged, many unmarried joint applicants were offered credit on less favorable terms than married applicants. 

"Millions of consumers use credit," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, "and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act guarantees that they are given an equal chance to get it. While lenders can use a variety of factors to compute a consumer's creditworthiness, marital status isn't one of them. This settlement tells lenders and would-be borrowers that credit discrimination won't be tolerated."

The $650,000 is among the largest settlements ever obtained by the Commission in an ECOA-related matter; in May of this year Franklin Acceptance Corporation, a Philadelphia-based finance company, paid an $800,000 civil penalty for similar alleged ECOA violations, as well as Fair Credit Reporting Act violations. 

The ECOA prohibits discrimination against an applicant for credit on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or the fact that an applicant's income is derived from public assistance. Regulation B specifically prohibits discounting or refusing to consider income on the basis of marital status.