A credit report can determine whether or not you can find a job, rent an apartment or buy a car or home. But the average consumer has very little knowledge about how the data is collected, who is receiving it, and what errors it contains. It is frightening how much a secret system can affect our every day lives.
Last year, a group of independent and Democratic U.S. Senators introduced a bill intended to make changes to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to place new requirements on the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) and the companies that furnish them with information.
Since then, the bill has gone no further.
This bill, which would be known as the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act and is sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), would make it easier for consumers to identify and dispute errors in their credit reports.
This is a bill that is desperately needed to combat what Senator Schatz has described as a “dark ecosystem of businesses” that operate to prevent people from knowing how their information is collected and reported. In light of ever increasing complaints and errors, the passage of the bill has great potential to help combat a growing problem.
For example, many credit report errors occur because companies that provide data to credit reporting agencies include information that is outdated or belongs to a different individual. Even if a consumer is savvy enough to find the error and dispute it to the credit reporting agencies, they are very often frustrated because the companies fail to investigate the reported errors fully and often simply take the work of the companies that report the information. When these huge corporations “parrot” information back and forth, it discourages the consumer from continuing to fight and leads to lower credit scores for the consumer and higher profits for the credit reporting agencies.
Those sponsoring this bill have failed to continue the push for more fair credit reporting. With several presidential hopefuls in the mix, ideally these issues should see more media time in the next 18 months.
In addition to checking credit reports for errors and contacting an attorney for help, consumers can make a difference by contacting U.S. representatives to express your support for this bill. In California, contact Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer. Those consumers in the 3rdCongressional District in CA, contact Representative John Garamendi. Those in the 4thCongressional District in CA, contact Representative Tom McClintock. Those in the 7thCongressional District in CA, contact Representative Ami Bera. Those in Sacramento’s 6thCongressional District, contact Representative Doris Matsui. Find additional representatives here. To read more about the bill, click here.
The bill is also supported by many consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, and the Consumers Union.