News Release

New Jersey Department of
Banking and Insurance
Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release: July 1, 2004

For Further Information:: Vincent Funelas - (609) 292-5064

Unveils Consumer Credit Bill of Rights

TRENTON - Demonstrating its commitment to protecting the financial rights of New Jerseyans, the Department of Banking and Insurance today unveiled a Consumer Credit Bill of Rights. The bill provides for additional consumer rights to complement existing rights contained in New Jersey's Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). New Jersey is the first state to issue this type of additional protection that empowers consumers in regards to their credit history.

"New Jersey has long been a leader in providing consumers with the best protections in the nation. Today, we keep that momentum going by being the first state to unveil a bill of rights dedicated to establishing safeguards in the financial marketplace," said Governor James E. McGreevey.

In the dynamic financial marketplace, credit history is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the daily lives of consumers. Companies may use a person's credit history to evaluate his or her application for credit, insurance, or employment. Those companies can decide to grant or deny individuals based on credit history. The Consumer Credit Bill of Rights advocates fair and equal treatment to those applying for credit, and once enacted will provide added protection when errors are detected.

"Enabling New Jerseyans to protect their credit is critical to their preserving financial security" U.S. Senator Jon S. Corzine said. "One key part of this effort must be promoting financial literacy. I am pleased that New Jersey is at the forefront of these efforts."

The Department's goal is to protect consumers by ensuring that the financial marketplace is behaving responsibly with respect to the use of personal credit information. The Department plans to monitor how consumers' credit histories are being evaluated in order to track potential patterns of consumer abuse and help maintain the State as a "consumer watchdog" for all New Jersey consumers.

"As New Jersey becomes a clearinghouse for information regarding the accuracy and use of credit history, it is the Department's objective to better prepare consumers for the expanding role of credit in their lives," Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke said. "Our intent is help consumers become more financially responsible while making certain that companies who use credit reports act responsibly with consumer information."

All of the tools and rights outlined in the bill will be implemented by Labor Day with the exception of those provisions requiring legislation, which will be introduced following the legislative summer recess. Among the provisions listed in the bill, consumers have the right to: control who sees their credit information; file complaints with the Department of Banking and Insurance; and freeze access to the credit file held by a consumer reporting agency.

"From predatory lending to identity theft, New Jersey consumers face attacks on their financial security now more than ever," said Senator John H. Adler. "The Consumers' Credit Bill of Rights provides 10 common sense means for New Jersey residents to protect an increasingly essential commodity - good credit. Many of these rights are already state law and we are working hard to make sure the others soon will be. But the most important thing is to make the public aware that by exercising these rights, they can protect their good credit."

The Department's consumer protection and financial education initiative goes beyond the Bill of Rights. The Department recently launched the New Jersey Financial Literacy Awareness Network (NJFLAN), an initiative to help consumers of all ages better understand and manage their finances. NJFLAN will distribute financial education materials, in both English and Spanish, throughout community organizations, schools, financial institutions and corporations throughout the state.

"Whether it is through Senator Corzine's financial education initiatives, the Department's consumer protection efforts or the state's new Consumer Credit Bill of Rights, we are positioning New Jersey consumers to take advantage of learning how to manage their financial life," Assemblyman Joseph Cryan said. "All of these efforts educate consumers on how to understand the use of credit, the importance of having credit, and how they can improve their credit worthiness.