The nation’s three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have entered into a settlement agreement with 31 states regarding consumer complaints around inaccurate credit reports.
The multi-state investigation was initiated in 2012. The investigation focused on consumer disputes about credit report errors, monitoring and disciplining data furnishers (providers of credit reporting information), accuracy in consumer credit reports, and the marketing of credit monitoring products to consumers who call the credit reporting agencies to dispute information on their credit report.
Under the terms of the 54 page settlement agreement, the credit reporting agencies have agreed to make a number of changes to their business practices to benefit consumers. Key provisions include:
1) Higher standards for data furnishers
- Requires the bureaus provide the states with lists of furnishers who most often report information that consumers dispute as inaccurate.
- Requires the bureaus and data furnishers use a better, more detailed system for sharing data
2) Limits the bureaus “direct-to-consumer” marketing
- Prohibits the bureaus from trying to sell products to people who call them with disputes.
3) Added protections for consumers who dispute reported information
- Requires the bureaus to establish a better escalation process
- Requires communication between the bureaus of any “mixed” files
- Requires the bureaus to send a consumer’s dispute supporting documents to the data furnisher
- Requires an additional free credit report if a change is made as the result of a dispute
4) Limits on types of information that can be added to a consumer’s credit report
- Bars the bureaus from reporting information about fines and tickets on consumers’ credit reports.
- Prohibits reporting of medical debts for 180 days after the account reported to give consumer’s time to work out health insurance issues
- Requires debt collectors who report information to the bureaus to provide the name of the original creditor and information about the debt before the information can be added to a consumer’s credit report.
Under the settlement, the credit reporting agencies also will pay the participating states $6 million.
The states that participated in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
In March of this year a similar settlement was reached separately with the state of New York.
Credit bureau reporting has become a high profile issue in 2015, particularly relating to medical debts. In February of this year the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting in Washington, DC was used as a platform to reiterate the Bureau’s focus on matters dealing with consumer credit reporting and medical debt, specifically how it is collected and appears on credit reports.