The Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968--which launched Truth in Lending disclosures--was landmark legislation. For the first time, creditors had to state the cost of borrowing in a common language so that you--the consumer--could figure out what the charges are, compare costs, and shop for the best credit deal.
Since 1968, credit protections have multiplied rapidly. The concepts of "fair" and "equal" credit have been written into laws that bar unfair discrimination in credit transactions, require that consumers be told the reason when credit is denied, let borrowers find out about their credit records, and set up a way for consumers to settle billing disputes.
Each law was meant to reduce the problems and confusion about consumer credit, which as it became more widely used in our economy, also grew more complex. Together, these laws set a standard for how individuals are to be treated in their financial dealings.
The laws say, for instance,
- that you cannot be denied a credit card just because you're a single woman
- that you can limit your risk if a credit card is lost or stolen
- that you can resolve errors in your monthly bill without damage to your credit rating and
- that you cannot have credit shut off just because you've reached age 62.
But let the buyer be aware! It is important to know your rights and how to use them. This handbook explains how the consumer credit laws can help you shop for credit, apply for it, maintain your credit standing, and, if need be, complain about an unfair deal. This handbook also explains what you should look for when using credit, details what creditors look for before extending credit, and reviews the laws' solutions to discriminatory practices that have made it difficult for women and minorities to get credit.