San Francisco– A US investigation into allegations that Apple credit card discriminated against women by offering them lower credit limits has not found evidence of unlawful intentional discrimination against women or members of other protected classes.

The New York State Department of Financial Services investigation found that Apple’s banking partner Goldman Sachs did not discriminate based on gender.

“The Department did not find, for example, any policy providing for lower credit limits for women or evidence suggesting the Bank intentionally judged women and men by different standards,” it said in a report.

Apple credit card policies were questioned when Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Basecamp designer David Heinemeier Hansson claimed that their female partners received lower credit limits “simply for being women”.

In November 2019, allegations surfaced on Twitter regarding discrimination by the bank in extending credit for Apple Card.

“Consumers complained that the Bank, in its underwriting of Apple Card credit card accounts, offered lower credit limits to women applicants and denied women account unfairly”, the NY department said.

These claims, in turn, brought the issue of equal credit access to the broader public, sparking vigorous public conversation about the effects of sex-based bias on lending, the hazards of using algorithms and machine learning to set credit terms, as well as reliance on credit scores to evaluate the creditworthiness of applicants,” it added.

The NYSDFS investigators conducted an analysis of nearly 4 lakh New York applicants that showed that the models and algorithms Goldman Sachs use to filter applicants “did not consider prohibited characteristics of applicants and would not produce disparate impacts”.

The department, however, said that more robust, consumer-focused policy for account holder requests appealing Apple Card credit terms could have reduced customer confusion.

“Requiring account holders to wait six months to appeal credit terms frustrated applicants who were surprised by their Apple Card credit limits and annual percentage rates,” the investigators said.

In the aftermath of media scrutiny in November 2019, the bank’s prompt change in policy demonstrated that the bank was capable of reviewing credit terms and offering modifications more quickly than initially allowed, the department noted. (IANS)