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OCTOBER 29, 2003
2:01 PM
CONTACT:  Consumers Union
Susan Herold 202.462.6262
Consumer Groups Ask Schwarzenegger to Take Stand on Financial Privacy
WASHINGTON - October 29 - As California Gov. Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger meets today with Congressional leaders, a coalition of California consumer groups is asking him to back an amendment being considered on the Senate floor that will safeguard California’s hugely popular financial privacy law and extend the same privacy protections to all Americans.

Schwarzenegger has yet to say where he stands on the “Do Not Share” amendment being offered by California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer that would give all consumers the right to say “no” to the sharing of their personal, private financial information among thousands of companies affiliated with banks and financial institutions. The amendment would make a key part of California’s law the national financial privacy standard, and help prevent identity theft, unwanted marketing, discrimination and fraud.

“An important new law supported by an overwhelming majority of Californians can set a new national standard to benefit consumers throughout the country. But it is under assault in Congress by powerful special interests,” wrote Californians for Privacy Now, a group which includes Consumers Union, AARP-California, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, ACLU-California and Consumer Federation of America, in a letter to the governor-elect.

“Now is the time to begin following through on a campaign promise that no doubt helped you win many votes on Oct. 7,” they added. “We hope you’ll take this opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your pledge to be the governor of the people, not the special interests.”

The group notes that lobbyists for the banks and financial services industry worked with privacy advocates in California to help shape a law representatives from the financial industry called a “reasonable and workable compromise.” But after the law was approved, industry lobbyists rushed to Congress to try and erase California’s law from the books and prevent it from becoming a national standard.

Currently, banks and financial institutions can share Social Security numbers, bank account balances and even the buying habits of their customers with their affiliates, which include insurance companies, mortgage companies, car loan services and other companies. This information sharing enables financial institutions to profile an individual’s spending habits and payment histories, which can lead to discriminatory decisions about credit and insurance products. Consumers can wind up paying higher rates or be denied insurance, credit and other financial services based on these secret credit reports.

The Feinstein/Boxer amendment would give consumers the right to decide if they want their information shared for any reason. Without the amendment, the “National Consumer Credit Reporting System Improvement Act of 2003” would only allow consumers to opt-out of marketing efforts by affiliates of banks and financial institutions, and only if they had no previous business with the financial institution.

To read the full letter, click here.


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