Opinion

A Pro-Consumer Legislative Agenda For a New Congress

Next week, Americans will head to the polls to decide the fate of most lawmakers in Congress. Democrats appear likely to win the gavel and regain control of the House of Representatives, but the election outcome is still uncertain as America continues to be divided politically with millions of undecided voters making their decision closer to election day.

This Congress has made significant progress advancing legislation that could help millions of hard-working Americans access the financial services they need, and at Elevate, a provider of tech-enabled online credit solutions, we encourage the next Congress to do even more to help give hard-working Americans a helping hand.

In our nation’s capital, our company supports regulation that enables innovation and facilitates more customer success. Once lawmakers begin the new legislative session, they should pass legislation clarifying regulatory ambiguity so that fintech companies like ours can continue to provide innovative solutions for consumers. This pro-innovation approach to regulation should also be balanced with responsible and appropriate consumer protections.

This Congress has taken several important steps that we encourage the next Congress to take up and complete. One priority for the 116th Congress should be encouraging partnerships between fintech companies.

The results of bank-fintech partnerships speak for themselves – consumers have access to better products with lower APRs, instead of having to pick between predatory alternatives. Policymakers should encourage these relationships and increase access to innovative products by clarifying that banks, not fintech companies, are the true lenders in bank-fintech partnerships.

The next Congress should balance a pro-innovation regulatory environment with consumer protections, embracing Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver’s (D-MO) principles for fintech innovation is a great place to start, they call for:

•  Honesty & Transparency: Simple and accessible financial statements are needed to help consumers understand the total cost of their loan. Greater disclosure by all industry actors is essential for borrowers to succeed.

•  Fairness: Credit scores are outdated and often exclude marginalized communities from accessing credit safely and affordably. Fintech innovation is helping fix this problem through partnerships with banks, but regulatory clarity would have a dramatic improvement.

•  Accountability: All financial services industry participants, including fintech companies, should register with the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s complaint system and respond to consumer complaints quickly and efficiently.

•  Inclusivity:  Diversity is one of our priorities and is key to innovation, but the financial services and technology industries have been slow to diversify their workforce overall. To create better products that serve every community, we need to have voices from all backgrounds at the table.

Finally, the next Congress should pursue pro-consumer pieces of legislation like the Credit Access And Inclusion Act, which passed the House this Congress. This measure would increase the amount of information available to determine and explain the credit worthiness of hard-working Americans by allowing credit reporting agencies to collect data from housing and utility companies. This would have a positive impact on millions of “credit invisible” Americans, a group disproportionately made up of members of communities of color.

Standing up for our customers is part of our DNA at Elevate. Whether it’s testifying on Capitol Hill or offering public support for the responsible expansion of credit, we will continue to do what we have always done: stand up for our customers. No matter what party ends up in power after this election cycle, we need lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to come together and pass legislation that helps us provide even better financial services to serve the underserved.

Brian Yates is the director of government affairs at Forth Worth, Texas-based Elevate Credit.

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