The Federal Trade Commission will refer consumer complaints to the three major national consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) under a new program announced today. The FTC will send the CRAs – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – certain complaints from consumers about disputed inaccuracies or incomplete information in the companies’ files. The CRAs will review the complaints, correct the files if necessary, and report the results to the FTC. The program implements a new provision in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The CRAs collect information about consumers, including payment histories on their debts, and compile the information into “credit reports.” The CRAs provide these reports to lenders, other creditors, insurers, employers and others with a legitimate business need for the information.
Under amendments to the FCRA in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACT Act), consumers will have a right to receive a free copy of their credit report every year from each of the three national CRAs. Consumers also have a right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information in their reports. A dispute by a consumer triggers a reinvestigation by the CRAs and the original source of the information, as well as a correction, if necessary.
Under the program announced today, the FTC will refer to the CRAs complaints it receives from consumers who maintain that their disputes about accuracy or completeness have not been resolved to their satisfaction. The FTC will not make any determination about the merits of the complaints. The CRAs will review the complaints to make sure they have complied with the applicable provisions of the FCRA, and periodically provide reports to the FTC on the disposition of a sample of the complaints. The program does not limit the FTC’s ability to pursue law enforcement under the FCRA.
“Accurate and complete information is not only essential to our credit-based economy,” said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “but also to the fair treatment of consumers. We look forward to working with the CRAs on this complaint-sharing program.”
For a complete description of the process for disputing information in a credit report that may contain inaccurate or incomplete information, see www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fcra.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad
(FTC File No. P034304)