Millions of consumers have begun to receive "Credit History for Married Persons" notices with their credit card bills. Under new regulations to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, companies are required to ask customers with joint accounts if they would like the histories of their accounts to be sent with both spouses' names to credit reporting agencies.
Women who sign and return notices will receive a separate credit history for activity on joint accounts. Creditors will not be required to open separate charge accounts for spouses only to report account activity to credit bureaus individually.
The "Credit Hisotory for Married Persons" notice is not concerned with changing liability or responsiblility for debts incurred on accounts. The regulation will only serve to give women a credit history in their own names.
"There are several principles here to understand," said David Murray, manager of the Credit Bureau of Washington. "If a woman signs and returns this to us and we will separate the joint file into his and her files. But this regulation, and indeed the credit bureau, will have nothing to do with liability.If a woman wants to change her status on a charge account, she must contact the store sparately."
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which became law in October of 1975, prohibits creditors from:
Considering members of one sex more favorably than the other.
Requesting information about birth control practices or family planning.
Excluding alimony, child support, parttime work, or public assistance payments from income, if so desired by the applicant.
Refusing to reveal all sources of information to an applicant.
Requesting informatiuon on a spouse if an applicant will accept all financial obligation or if the spouse's income will not be depended on for acceptance to the application.
The act was not met with universal acceptan Consumer groups complain that there are 12 agencies, ranging from the Federal Reserve System to the Civil Aeronautics Board, who will enforce the act. Creditors say that they cannot even understand the wording of the bill and expect very little response from the notices.
Dolores Smith, staff attorney in the Equal Credit Opportunity Division, Federal Reserve System, said, "Surely the law does not solve all credit problems for women. But it is a step in the right direction. Before the act, too many creditors were denying individual credit to women who were credit worthy in their won right. ECOA will remedy this situation. The credit history provisions will go further to recognize the invaluable role which homemakers play in their families financial life."