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Last Update February 4, 2016
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CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU TAKES 
STEPS TO IMPROVE CHECKING ACCOUNT ACCESS

CFPB Concerned that Screening Inaccuracies and Lack of Account 
Options are Keeping Consumers Out of the Banking System

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking steps to improve checking account access amidst Bureau concerns that consumers are being sidelined by the lack of account options and by inaccurate information used to screen potential customers. Today the CFPB sent a letter to the 25 largest retail banks encouraging them to make available and widely market lower-risk deposit accounts that help consumers avoid overdrafting. The CFPB also issued a bulletin warning banks and credit unions that failure to meet accuracy obligations when they report negative account histories to credit reporting companies could result in Bureau action. And finally, the CFPB is providing consumers with resources to help navigate the deposit account system.

“Consumers should not be sidelined out of the basic banking services they need because of the flaws and limitations in a murky system,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “People deserve to have more options for access to lower-risk deposit accounts that can better fit their needs.”
Almost nine out of 10 American households have at least one checking account, and many also maintain a savings account. In recent decades, technology has made it possible for consumers to access funds in their accounts in a variety of ways. More and more banks have also introduced automated overdraft programs. As these changes have occurred, banks have placed greater emphasis on screening new applicants for potential risks that may arise if a consumer exceeds his or her account balance.

One way that banks and credit unions screen account applicants for risk is to use information provided by checking account reporting companies, which have databases of information on involuntary closures of consumer checking accounts supplied by banks and credit unions. In October 2014, the CFPB laid out concerns about the information accuracy of these reports, people’s ability to access the reports and dispute incorrect information, and the ways in which the reports were being used.

Today, the CFPB is warning banks and credit unions of their obligations when reporting. And while some banks and credit unions currently offer products that help consumers avoid overdrafts and other risks, the CFPB is also encouraging the industry more broadly to provide account options for consumers so they are less likely to overspend their funds.
​     •Offer lower-risk products: Today the CFPB is encouraging banks and credit unions to offer products that are designed not to authorize overdrafts and that do not charge overdraft fees. A number of institutions have introduced “no-overdraft” accounts and offer them alongside more common checking account products. However, in a recent CFPB review of the top retail banking websites, the CFPB found nearly half do not appear to offer any deposit account that ensures consumers can’t overspend. Such a product would give consumers an opportunity to choose an account that helps them avoid overdrafting.
     •Advertise the lower-risk products: The CFPB is concerned that even when companies have these accounts available, consumers don’t know about them. So the CFPB is also urging banks and credit unions to feature such products prominently in their marketing efforts, their online and in-store checking account menus, and during sales consultations.
The letter sent to the financial institutions is available at:Govdelivery.com/... 



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