- CRA Mapping and Analysis System, which integrates
demographic, loan and economic information from a variety of sources;
- Automated Compliance Examination Structure, a joint
initiative by the FDIC and the Federal Reserve that will improve examination
efficiency and consistency, while minimizing the burden on financial institutions by
reducing the time that examiners must spend at the bank; and
- Community Contacts Database, a centralized interagency list of
community organizations or other entities involved in community reinvestment
activities of banks and thrifts.
For information on other automated examination programs,
Financial institutions increasingly are using technology to provide financial products and
services. Many recent enhancements involve automated teller machines, smart
cards, video-kiosks, and home banking by phone, computer or interactive television
(Web TV). At year-end 1997, a total of 602 FDIC-supervised banks operated home pages on
the Internet. Thirty-four were transactional sites that provided customers the
ability to pay bills, transfer funds and open accounts. The others were information
only sites that described the banks products and services. While institutions
on the Internet represent a small segment of all financial institutions, acceptance of the
new technology by consumers and financial institutions is increasing rapidly.
The advent of electronic banking technology raises significant
questions and unique challenges for enforcing consumer protection, fair lending and
community reinvestment laws. The regulations implementing these laws generally do not
contemplate the electronic delivery of financial products and services. The FDIC has
recognized the need to ensure that its examination staff is aware of current developments
in electronic banking, and that examination and enforcement policies take into account the
increased use of new technology by institutions and consumers. DCA took steps in 1997 to
address the impact of electronic banking on enforcement of the consumer protection
- Expanding examiner training to incorporate a segment on the impact
of electronic banking on the legal and regulatory environment.
- Participating in a Federal Financial Institutions Examination
Council working group that focused on electronic banking issues and
interagency examination policies on consumer protection and fair lending
laws, and advised examiners in these areas.
- Coordinating participation by the regulatory agencies
in an Internet conference for financial institutions that responded to 15 major
industry questions on electronic banking.
For more information on electronic banking (click here).
Educating Consumers and Bankers
The FDIC offers a wide range of educational information and assistance to tens of thousands of
consumers and financial institutions each year. DCAs main vehicle for providing
deposit insurance and consumer protection information is its toll-free Call Center
(1-800-934-3342 or 1-800-925-4618 for the deaf). During 1997, more than 70,000 consumers
and bankers contacted the DCA Call Center with questions about FDIC deposit insurance or
consumer protection matters. DCA regional offices received another 15,000 calls.
responded to 1,522 written inquiries from consumers and 320 written inquiries from
financial institutions. Another 555 inquiries were received through the Internet (click here). Use of the electronic mail to contact the FDIC
increased in 1997, with the agency receiving an average of 45 inquiries per month,
compared to 10 per month in 1996.
Most consumer inquiries in 1997 concerned deposit insurance
coverage, determining if a financial institution is FDIC-insured, requests for FDIC
publications, consumers rights under the consumer protection regulations, and how to
file a consumer complaint. Most financial institution inquiries concerned the deposit
insurance rules, requests for FDIC publications and consumer brochures, and questions
about general banking or regulatory matters, including fair lending, community
reinvestment and consumer protection laws.
The FDIC develops and distributes informational brochures on
deposit insurance and other topics of interest to consumers. The FDICs most popular
brochure is Your Insured Deposits, which explains the rules for insurance coverage of
deposit accounts. During 1997, the FDIC issued a new consumer brochure, Your Investments,
about financial institution investment products, such as mutual funds and annuities, that
are not deposits and are not insured by the FDIC.
The FDIC frequently conducts training and outreach activities to
promote an understanding of deposit insurance and consumer protection laws. The FDIC
conducted several major outreach initiatives locally and nationally in October 1997 in
observance of National Consumers Week, such as training sessions for bankers on consumer
protection issues, joint outreach efforts with local consumer organizations, and consumer
Because the staff of an insured institution generally is a
customers first source of information about deposit insurance, the FDIC conducted 12
insurance seminars for employees of institutions in eight states during 1997.
Approximately 430 financial institution employees attended these sessions, which provided
an in-depth review of the deposit insurance regulations and interagency guidelines for the
sale of nondeposit investment products.
In 1997, DCA continued to expand its use of the Internet to
provide information about deposit insurance and consumer protections. DCA began developing
an interactive Internet application that will allow consumers to enter information about
their accounts and determine whether their funds are fully insured under the FDIC deposit
insurance rules. The application is expected to be on the Internet in the third quarter of
Responses to Consumer Complaints
The FDIC investigates complaints it receives from consumers about
FDIC-supervised financial institutions. It also tracks the volume and nature of these
complaints to monitor trends and identify emerging issues that may raise consumer
In 1997, DCA received more than 3,600 written consumer complaints
against FDIC-supervised banks, most concerning consumer credit card accounts, as has been
the trend over the past few years. About half of all complaints involved a small number of
specialized credit-card banks that manage large credit-card loan portfolios. The most
common complaints typically involved the adverse action notice that financial institutions
must provide consumers under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act when denying a credit
application; credit card billing errors and disputes with merchants; the advertising of
loan products, particularly credit cards; and creditors requirements for a co-signor
as a condition of loan approval.
The FDICs Office of Legislative Affairs, with the
assistance of other divisions and offices, sent 1,385 letters to members of Congress in
1997. Many were in response to constituent complaints about financial institutions
compliance with fair lending and consumer protection laws.
The FDICs Office of the Ombudsman handled more than 55,000
inquiries and requests for information in 1997. The office provides guidance to consumers
on where to get information throughout the agency and acts as an impartial third party to
assist consumers and bankers who have had problems working with the agency. The
Ombudsmans office conducted a number of outreach efforts in 1997 and participated in
programs such as National Consumers Week, sponsored by the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs
as well as other consumer-related groups and associations.
The FDIC frequently meets with community and consumer groups, bankers and government
officials to exchange views about community reinvestment and fair lending issues. In 1997,
the FDIC participated in 187 such events across the country. More than half were events to
educate bankers and others about CRA and fair lending topics. Other events focused on
fostering partnerships between financial institutions and community-based organizations.
The FDIC reached more than 6,000 bankers through these events.