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CFPB to address credit access issues this year
WASHINGTON (9/21/12)--A long-awaited draft of proposed rules that would address credit access issues faced by stay-at-home spouses will likely be released before the U.S. Congress returns from its upcoming election recess, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray said during a Thursday House Financial Services Committee hearing.

Legislators last year contacted the CFPB, noting that the ability-to-repay rules, which require card issuers to consider a consumer's independent ability to make required payments on a credit card account before opening a new card account or increasing the credit limit on an existing account, have in some cases limited the ability of stay-at-home spouses to secure new lines of credit.

The ability-to-repay rule, as currently written, does not currently specifically address joint accounts or checking accounts, instead only advising card issuers to take into account assets such as savings accounts when it determines an individual's creditworthiness.

Cordray's announcement was prompted by a question from Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is one of several House members that has asked the CFPB to conduct an extensive review of the impact that ability-to-pay rules are having on credit availability. Maloney, who helped write the ability-to-repay rules, said on Thursday that it was not her intention to create these credit issues, and noted that this credit access problem is both a consumer and a women's rights issue. These issues are the reason Congress moved to create the CFPB in the first place, she added.

In a letter sent to the CFPB late last year, Maloney and other members of Congress noted that the ability to repay standards were resulting in average lines of credit assigned to women that were well below the average assigned to men, and low approval rates for women in certain age groups, "especially for those 62 and over, who may be particularly likely to rely on the income of other household members."

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