by Bill Hardekopf
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues to bring transparency and accountability to consumer reporting agencies.
Today, the CFPB warned specialty credit reporting agencies that they may be violating federal law by not providing consumers with easy access to credit reports. The Bureau also released a bulletin reminding consumer reporting agencies (CRA) of their legal obligation to provide a streamlined process for consumers to request a free annual credit report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires nationwide credit reporting agencies to provide free annual access to the consumer's credit report. This applies not only to the major credit bureaus like TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax but also to nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. These specialty agencies collect specific information such as employment, tenancy, medical payments, and check-writing. They analyze this information and sell it to third parties. Lenders make loan decisions based on information contained in these reports. The FCRA gives consumer the right to dispute information in these reports and the information reporting agencies have about them. The CRA must investigate and correct any inaccuracies.
"Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies can have great influence over a consumer's tenancy, insurance premiums, or even employment," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. "Today, the CFPB is reminding these companies that they must follow the law and provide consumers with easy access to their free annual report. If we have reason to believe that companies are not following the law, we will take action."
The CFPB strongly emphasizes that consumers must have easy access to CRA information. Companies must give a toll-free number that is easy to find in phone books and on the company's website. It must provide clear and easy instructions for consumers to get their reports. Not all companies are required to give a free annual copy of your credit report, but all CRAs must provide you a copy of your report for a fee. The CFPB has compiled a list of websites and toll-free numbers for 40 CRAs.
If you receive a notice that you were denied credit, insurance or employment because of your credit report, you are entitled to an additional free annual report from the CRA named in the notice. You must request this within 60 days after you receive the notice.
Bill Hardekopf is CEO of LowCards.com, which simplifies the confusion of shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates. It also gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card.