**World News Tonight**                                     Jun 21, 2001

6:30-7:00 PM                                           ABC

C MMI American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Segment: Profile: Companies may have the right to share private

         information with other companies if consumers don't return

         information saying otherwise

 

 

 

PETER JENNINGS, anchor:

 

We're going to begin this evening with a small, easy-to-miss document

that millions of Americans concerned about their privacy may have

overlooked.  And this is it.  About a billion of these have been mailed

to 100 million Americans.  And if you have not filled it out and sent it

back in the next nine days, banks and credit card companies, credit

unions and insurance companies will have the right to share whatever

private information they have about you with just about anybody else in

the financial business.  Today, in Washington, there was suddenly some

very public resistance to this.  ABC's in--John Martin is in Washington

this evening.  John, first of all tell us, how did this sneak up on

people so?

 

JOHN MARTIN reporting:

 

Peter, I--I guess you could blame it on just a busy society, everybody's

so distracted.  This new law, the Financial Modernization Act, gives

consumers rights, but they've got to act quickly, by July 1st.

(VO) David Powell received 30 privacy notices in his financial statements

in the last two month.  He did not pay much attention, until his wife

read one.

 

Ms. LISA POWELL: And I started to explain it to David what was going on,

and he just thought I was paranoid, but it's our rights.

 

MARTIN: (VO) The average household is receiving 15 of these notices from

banks, credit card companies, mortgage lenders and others.  The problem

is that they come buried among solicitations.  This one is 1,745 words

long, with six boxes to check.  Maybe that's why a recent survey shows 60

percent of Americans can't recall receiving one or just did not read it.

Today, consumer advocates complained that the law is defective and

petitioned federal agencies to postpone the July 1st deadline.

 

Mr. ED MIERZWINSKI (US Public Interest Research Group): Not only are the

notices deceptive, but the new law itself is defective.

 

MARTIN: (VO) Advocate Ralph Nader thinks the law has it the wrong way

around for consumers.

 

Mr. RALPH NADER (Consumer Advocate): They should be able to control it

without doing anything.  They should be able to, in effect, say to the

financial corporations, unless we give you the affirmative OK, you can't

sell this information about us all over the world.

 

MARTIN: (VO) The American Bankers Association says the forms are not a

burden, but an opportunity.

 

Mr. JOHN BYRNE (American Bankers Association): The bottom line is we want

you to read this, it's not junk mail.

 

MARTIN: (VO) As the deadline approaches, resistance may be growing.

 

Ms. LINDA DOUGLAS (Bank Customer): With my information you never--with a

lot of people you don't know who's going to get a hold of it and what

they're actually using it for.

 

MARTIN: Still, with only nine days left, the bankers say that only one

half of one percent of all the people who've received these notices have

told the financial companies, `No, don't send out my information.' Peter:

 

JENNINGS: Thanks, John.  John Martin in Washington.

 

[Click here to view streaming video of our press conference, 6/21/01.]