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Credit Reporting Agencies Agree to Major Changes

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By Aaron M. Swift, Esq.


Credit Reporting AgenciesExperian, Equifax, and TransUnion—the three largest credit reporting agencies which collect and distribute credit information on more than 200 million Americans—will (allegedly) change the way they respond to consumer disputes as part of the largest industry overhaul in the last ten years.  The Big Three—as the agencies are so named—reached settlements with attorneys general in 32 states culminating years of nationwide investigations into shoddy business practices.  The settlements aim to resolve a myriad of consumer complaints including:

 

  1. corrupting credit reports of consumers with good payments histories by assigning someone else’s bad credit history to them;
  2. failing to act or even investigate when consumers disputed errors;
  3. employing low-paid non-trained employees to review dispute documentation; and
  4. reporting unpaid medical debts as collection accounts before insurance payments process.

Major Errors Common

One in five consumers have a major error on at least one of their three major credit reports, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission study, and nearly 43 million Americans have past-due medical debt on their credit report, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). Additionally, over half of all collections debt on credit reports is related to medical expenses.  Given the magnitude of the problem, the settlements should provide much-needed relief to consumers if the Big Three in fact follow through with the changes contemplated by the agreements.  Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General, wrote in an e-mail statement that the agreement “is a good sign that the reporting agencies are finally willing to step up their game and respond to the needs of hardworking consumers and their families.”  Under the new agreements, the Big Three must wait 180 days before adding any medical debts to credit reports, and when medical debts are eventually paid by insurance companies, the collections account must be removed immediately.  In contrast, most delinquencies and other negative credit information usually remain on a consumer’s credit report for up to seven years.  

Major Changes

Other major changes to the industry include:

  1. streamlining the dispute resolution process;
  2. maintaining a list of creditors and debt collectors that routinely report bad or inaccurate information about consumers;
  3. formalizing communication between the Big Three and consumers regarding documentation sent in support of disputes; and
  4. separating the dispute and complaint process from the sale of creditor-monitoring services.  

Stuart Pratt, the CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association—the trade and lobbying association of the Big Three—said in a written statement, “the settlements, which arose out of collaborative discussions between the three agencies and a group of state attorneys general, will enhance credit report accuracy, increase transparency, and provide meaningful benefit to consumers.”  

The consumer lawyers at LeavenLaw dedicate themselves to fighting for our client’s rights against banks, debt collectors, and the Big Three.  If you have errors on your credit report, please call us today at 855-LeavenLaw to schedule your free consultation.  You can also access free copies of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and then schedule a free credit report analysis with an experienced FCRA lawyer.  For more information, please visit www.leavenlaw.com.