The House passed two bills on Monday that would seek to halt financial abuse of senior citizens and make it easier for consumers in rural areas to open bank accounts remotely.
Industry groups praised lawmakers for passing the Making Online Banking Initiation Legal and Easy, or Mobile Act, and a broader bill that contained provisions of the previously introduced SeniorSafe Act. That measure would protect bankers from lawsuits if they report suspected elder financial abuse to law enforcement.
“By adopting this legislation, the members of the U.S. House of Representatives have taken a positive step forward to enacting into law a measure to combat financial exploitation and abuse of older Americans,” Lee Covington, senior vice president and general counsel of the Insured Retirement Institute, said in a press release.
The Credit Union National Association praised the move, with CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle saying in a statement, “This legislation is important to help credit unions and other financial institutions remain competitive in a world where financial technology companies are often subject to fewer requirements. It’s always a positive development when consumers have easier access to credit unions and the safe and affordable products and services they offer.”
Preventing elder abuse has long been a passion across the credit union movement, with many CUs regularly hosting events to educate consumers on how to spot it and recognizing employees who take action to prevent it. Some analysts have observed that CUs are uniquely positioned to help stop the problem, and credit unions frequently make efforts to do so.
Meanwhile, the Mobile Act would allow financial institutions to use a scan or image of a customer’s state-issued photo ID to authenticate a customer’s identity when opening an account remotely. Bankers and trade groups have identified that as a hurdle to banking some underserved rural markets.
Most states have laws restricting how a person’s state-issued ID may be used or copied, but make specific exemptions allowing banks and credit unions to scan or copy those IDs for know-your-customer purposes.
However, a handful of states do not specifically exempt financial services from these laws, and the Mobile Act aims to address that by essentially creating a federal-level carve-out for banks and credit unions.
“Consumer banks have the capabilities and willingness to help millions of consumers, including many unbanked or underbanked Americans, gain access to banking products and services,” Consumer Bankers Association President and CEO Richard Hunt said in a press release. “We hope the Senate will consider the Mobile Act in a timely fashion.”