The Words NCUA Won’t Let You Say

by. Henry Meier

I’m so glad that the worst of the financial crisis is behind us.  Now NCUA can get back to some really important oversight:  making sure common bond credit unions don’t inadvertently use advertising puffery to lure consumers into their branches.

The late comedian George Carlin told us the seven dirty words you couldn’t say on televisions and NCUA has now told us at least some of the phrases that may get credit union marketers in trouble.  In a Letter to Credit Unions worthy of a George Carlin comedy routine, NCUA warns credit unions against overly broad advertising campaigns with ” language to the effect that “anyone can join” or “membership is open to everyone” — without any qualifying language.

The NCUA warns that such overly broad language “may” violate federal law and goes on to provide a quick primer on credit union membership requirements for common bond credit unions.

Here is the thing: There are many smaller media markets where a large portion of the population can join a multiple common bond credit union.  In those situations, are credit unions acting illegally or reaching out to as many members as possible in what they think is the most effective way?

A second thrust of the letter warns that NCUA’s Office of Consumer Protection has begun conducting quality control reviews of federal credit unions that may be improperly using associations to sign up members without a common bond.

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