August 15, 2016

Tech News

As many in the financial industry recall, last year, a division of General Electric, was heavily fined for excluding thousands of Spanish-speaking credit card customers from a debt-reduction promotion they ran for two years. This illustrated a pattern of discrimination resulting in the federal government’s largest credit-card­-discrimination settlement in history.

Over $169 million in fines were ordered to compensate over 638,000 Spanish-speaking consumers who were affected by the exclusion. In a release, CFPB Director, Richard Cordray stated the bureau, “will continue to take action against marketing tactics that trick consumers into buying credit card products they do not want or cannot use”. He added, “Consumers also deserve to be treated fairly no matter where they live or what language they speak.”

“The scope of the potential harm, as well as the blatant nature of the discrimination, is particularly troublesome,” Jocelyn Samuels, the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said during a conference call with reporters. In the final settlement, the bank agreed to contact the credit bureaus to eliminate negative marks on the reports of affected borrowers.

Since this took place, many in the financial market have taken a closer look at their own practices to ensure they are not involuntarily violating any procedures that could be viewed as deceptive to their non-English speaking customers. But for one major bank, the remedy to this potential dilemma was a language testing company based in White Plains, NY. The company, known simply as LTI, (Language Testing International), partnered with this bank to certify the professional language competence of its employees who interact with customers in various languages. “This partnership came as a result of GE’s discrimination settlement and their proactive steps and commitment to effectively communicate with their non-English speaking customers”, said Helen Hamlyn, CEO of Language Testing International.

It may be too early to tell if language testing will become a trend in the banking world but it does seem to be a logical step for the financial market to take in reducing the risk of miscommunicating with its non-English speaking customers.

ABOUT THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU (CFPB): A 21st century agency helping consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

ABOUT LANGUAGE TESTING INTERNATIONAL (LTI) – Since 1992, LTI has been the leader in the development of language proficiency testing for more than 100 languages in over 40 countries.  As the exclusive licensee of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign languages (ACTFL) we conduct thousands of tests for small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, including both State and Federal government agencies and academic institutions. For more information, visit www.languagetesting.com

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