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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 December 2007, 15:11 GMT
Banks to keep age discrimination
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Two older women laughing together. Credit: Age Concern
Should age be such a big factor in deciding credit - what about health?
Britain's High Street banks have rejected plans to end age discrimination when they give credit.

A clause to ban the practice was thrown out when they reviewed the Banking Code which all major banks and building societies subscribe to.

In future they will still be able to refuse credit to people solely on grounds of their age.

The banks say they oppose discrimination but need to take account of relevant factors, such as age.

Code review

The question of ending age discrimination was raised by Mike Young, a banking consultant who was brought in by the industry to review the Banking Code - the voluntary guidance that all the major banks and building societies follow.

He said: "The guidance should be amended to ban credit rejection simply on the grounds of reaching a certain age"

But the banks rejected the suggestion.

Eric Leenders, director of retail banking at the British Banking Association, told Money Box on Radio 4:

To ban credit rejection simply on the grounds of reaching a certain age... seems to be a perfectly straightforward thing to do
Mervyn Kohler, Help the Aged

"I do not think the banks feel there should be any discrimination of any kind and that includes age.

"But the banks feel they should be able to make commercial decisions and take account of factors they might feel are relevant, and one of the factors could be age."

And he agreed that the question of whether an older person would live for as long as the loan, was relevant.

"The affordability on a personal loan is a fixed monthly payment over a given period of time.

"If there are circumstances which suggest that monthly commitment might not be met over the term, then alternatives might be more appropriate."

Charity reaction

But Mervyn Kohler of the charity Help the Aged, which has researched age discrimination in financial services, rejects these arguments.

"It looks to be rank age discrimination.

"The recommendation from the independent adviser was that the guidance should be amended to ban credit rejection simply on the grounds of reaching a certain age, which seems to be a perfectly straightforward thing to do."

He says many older people need access to credit to move to more suitable accommodation, or adapt the home they live in.

And he rejects the idea that responsible lending involves considering age.

"We want the banks to lend responsibly to people of any age, and want them to make the proper assessment as to whether that individual can repay the loan.

"But what we do not want is for people to come along and be asked their age, and if it is over 75 they are shown the door."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 8 December 2007 at 1204 GMT.

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