The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the privacy, fairness, and accuracy of consumer credit reports. The act regulates what credit reporting agencies (CRAs), commonly referred to as credit bureaus, can include in your credit report and who that information can be shared with. The FCRA exists to protect every consumer’s right to have a fair and accurate credit report.

Table of Contents:

How the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates credit reporting agencies

The FRCA regulates how credit reporting agencies (CRAs) can:

  • Share information with businesses as they make decisions to extend new credit to a consumer, such as a loan.
  • Share information to other entities, including government agencies and potential employers.
  • Allow you to access your credit data, including viewing your credit report to make sure it is accurate.
  • Correct inaccurate information when asked to do so.
  • Remove negative information after set periods.

What are your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?

1. The right to review your credit report

You have a right to receive your credit reports for free from each credit bureau at least once per year. You also get another free copy of your credit report if you’ve been denied credit after applying for a loan or a credit card.

To download your reports with no strings attached through a government-mandated website, visit annualcreditreport.com. The portal will take you to the website of each of the three national credit bureaus in the U.S. (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). You can download all your reports at once or space out the downloads throughout the year.

It’s worth noting that currently, the credit bureaus have agreed that you can get a free report every week until April 2022 due to the pandemic. This gives consumers more opportunities to review their credit reports for accuracy.

2. The right to keep information private and grant consent

You have a right to privacy in your credit report, meaning no unauthorized users can view it. Only those with “permissible purpose” can view it. Permissible purposes can include a court order, a potential creditor or employer, a license from the government, a security clearance from a government agency, insurance agencies, child support enforcement agencies. Typically your express consent (authorization) will be required before your information is given out. Employers only see a modified version of your credit report.

3. The right to keep information accurate and repair your credit

You have the right to challenge inaccurate information and update information on your credit report. You can challenge errors in your report and update your address and other related information. The credit bureaus must respond within 30 days. If they request more information from you, then they have 15 additional days to respond. They must contact the data furnisher (the lender, creditor, or collector that provided the information) to verify the disputed information within five business days. Bureaus have the right to terminate your request if it is irrelevant or frivolous. If what you dispute cannot be verified, then it must be removed. The bureau must give you another free copy of your credit report so you can see the item was removed.

4. The right to seek damages

You have the right to sue a credit reporting agency that does not correct errors in your report within a defined amount of time. You’ll need to contact a lawyer in your area.

5. The right to request your scores

You have the right to get your credit scores so you can improve them or use them in an informed decision to seek new credit. However, the FCRA does not grant you the right to receive your scores for free. You must pay a credit reporting agency or credit score furnisher to obtain your scores.

6. The right to opt-out

You have the right to “opt-out” of pre-screened marketing offers. This stops you from receiving offers for credit cards, loans, refinancing, and debt consolidation. To opt-out of mail, credit card, and other marketing, visit OptOutScreen.com.

7. The right to know why you were denied

If you are denied credit when you apply for a loan or credit card, the lender or creditor must tell you about the information they used and how they obtained it. This helps you ensure that you were denied credit for a legitimate issue with your credit and not due to discrimination. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, you can visit your state attorney General’s office.

8. The right to set credit report alerts

The FCRA also sets the process for setting initial and extended fraud alerts on a credit report, as well as an active-duty alert for military Service Members. You can add the initial fraud alert for free for one year if you believe you were a victim of identity theft. However, you must ask for it. If you have a law enforcement record, you can add an extended fraud alert.

9. The right to obtain a security freeze

You can place a “credit freeze” on your credit report. This will stop any credit bureau from giving out information in your credit file without your written permission. You must contact each of the three major credit bureaus to do this.

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What the Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn’t protect

The FCRA, overall, provides a good level of protection for consumers. However, there are still some gaps. According to Dr. Alicia Cackley, Director of Financial Markets and Community Investment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), one significant gap in the FCRA is that the law does not cover the “currently unregulated financial scores that affect consumers,” such as online lenders, and another considerable gap is that consumers do not have “due process and a fair standard setting in the area of privacy.” Consumer credit information isn’t as private as it could be.

Dr. Cackley has lobbied Congress in an attempt to bring the FCRA up to date. She stated, “It’s important for customers to be well informed about the ways that their personal information is collected and shared by financial institutions.”

She also remarked that the FCRA doesn’t go far enough in the regulation of predatory marketing.  Predatory marketing is the marketing of products sent out to consumers which does not disclose all of their options and rights.

The GAO has recommended more comprehensive privacy legislation, but none of the issues have been acted upon yet. In a report, the GAO has stated that “No overarching federal privacy law governs the collection and sale of personal information among private-sector companies.” And that “no federal statute provides consumers the right to learn what information is held about them and who holds it.” The GAO also reported that the statutory framework for consumer privacy did not fully address new technologies.

Who enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) share the responsibility of enforcing and managing the act. In addition, individual states may have additional laws that supplement the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in  2010 and helps consumers by accepting complaints and providing educational materials. It regulates banks and other lenders, including credit cards issuers. Additionally, it supervises credit reporting agencies and debt collection companies. Before its creation, consumer protection powers were held by different Federal Government agencies. Now those consumer protection powers are under a single entity. The only area that the CFPB does not cover is Automobile sales and leasing companies.

The FTC was created in 1914. The mission of the FTC is to protect consumers and promote competition. Before the Dodd-Frank Act, the FTC has a more significant direct role in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Currently, the agency applies the standards and laws of the FCRA to automotive sales and leasing. Other aspects of consumer protection lie with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While you can’t file a direct complaint with the agency, they have a section for reporting fraud.

Changes in the Fair Credit Reporting Act for 2021

In 2021, the FTC announced they were updating their practices to bring five FCRA rules in line with the agency’s current authority. They do not change the protections of The Fair Credit Reporting Act but clarify the agency’s role in protecting consumers.

Background on 2021 FCRA changes

The Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 changed the legal framework for financial service providers. It created the CFPB, which began to share oversight of consumer protection laws with the FTC. So, while the FTC traditionally has protected consumers under the FCRA, in 2012, the CFPB began to take over some of those roles.

In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission approved final changes to update parts of the Fair Credit Reporting Act so it would be in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Walls Street Reform Act and the Consumer Protection Act. The changes do not reflect change any of the consumer rights granted by the FCRA. Instead, they simply transfer oversight of FCRA from the FTC to the CFPB.

What this means for consumers

Consumers still have the same rights. There are two agencies that are still in charge of oversight for the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and none of the consumer protections have been lost. Both agencies are simply adjusting their authority so that guidelines are clear about which agency oversees each part of the FCRA.

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Article last modified on September 24, 2021. Published by Debt.com, LLC