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Grammar constitution stand in way of bank ban
MADISON, Wis. (7/20/12)--Credit unions monitoring a situation in Vermont, where a state regulator has forbidden a state-chartered credit union from using words such as "bank" and "banking" in its marketing, can take heart. Grammar and constitution stand in the way of the ban, according to The Financial Brand.com, which pointed out the ludicrousness of banning the terms in an article Thursday.

In "War of the Words: Vermont Bankers Battle Credit Union over B-Word," the Brand tells readers that Montpelier, Vt.-based Vermont State Employees CU (VSECU) is banned from using the words after a complaint filed by Vermont bankers.  "But the credit union may be the one getting the last laugh."  It cited several offending phrases from marketing examples, including:

  • "We are a not-for-profit banking cooperative."
  • "At VSECU, we're making banking a little more exciting."
  • "It's another example of how VSECU is redefining banking."
"What about 'online banking'? Or 'mobile banking'?" the article asks. "Why should VSECU's use of these common, socially accepted, industry-wide terms be restricted, when practically every other credit union in Vermont (and the rest of the world) can use these words with impunity? Where does one draw the line?"

Trying to limit "banking" as a verb is "way beyond reason," the article said. "The words 'bank' and 'banking' are concepts that transcend a single industry. 'Bank' (as a verb) is more generally understood to mean 'save' or 'deposit' or to manage one's core finances. When consumers say, 'I bank with XYZ Financial,' that's what they mean."

Then the article brings up the U.S. Constitution, with: "Hello? Ever heard of the First Amendment? Any lawyer worth his or her salt should be able to get this thrown out on grounds of free speech. How on earth can it be constitutional to restrict one's ability to make analogies and allusions to anything? Trying to limit the use of words based on context and intent is a very, very slippery slope," said the article.

The article continues pointing out tongue-in-cheek situations where a ban just won't work. "Using the common cliché, 'You can bank on it,' could be punishable…There would be no 'bank shots' in billiards. Jet planes couldn't 'bank sharply.'" It also offers some ways the credit union could exploit the situation for marketing and poke fun at those want the ban the words.

The article's main conclusion: "People are going to call it banking, and both sides need to just get over it."

For the full article, use the link.
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