The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 states that it is illegal for any credit provider or lender to act in a discriminatory manner on the basis of an person's age, sex, marital status, religion, race or country of origin. It also prevents lenders from discriminating against those applicants who receive benefits from a government assistance program. As long as the applicant for credit has the ability to follow through with a loan contract, they must not be singled out due to any of the preceding reasons. Banks or mortgage lenders who do not comply with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act face penalties from the government and civilians if they choose to file suit. These penalties can be substantial. The rules apply to any individual or agency that makes credit decisions during their normal business practices.