Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.
“This is huge,” Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said of the deal announced Monday by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Consumers should be able to more easily get their errors fixed.”
Some consumers have spent years trying to rectify errors on their credit reports resulting from mistakes, fraud or mistaken identities. Removing black marks will save people money and time as credit bureaus have become gatekeepers to economic and employment success in the U.S., said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at advocacy group U.S. PIRG in Washington.
Units of the three U.S. consumer credit reporting services -- Equifax Inc., Experian Plc and TransUnion Corp. -- said they would make changes to improve accuracy of reports and increase protection for consumers with medical debt in the agreement with Schneiderman. Combined, the companies maintain credit information on about 200 million U.S. consumers, and much of the deal will apply nationally.
“It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received more than 35,600 complaints related to incorrect information on credit reports since it began collecting data in October 2012. About one in five complaints came from consumers who said information on their credit reports wasn’t actually theirs, according to a 2013 U.S. PIRG report that examined the complaints.
Credit-reporting companies resolve an average of 15 percent of items consumers dispute internally, the CFPB said in a 2012 report. The rest are passed to banks, credit-card issuers and other firms that reported information on borrowers’ behavior using a digit code. If the provider said there wasn’t an error, the bureaus accepted that through an automated process, said Wu.
“The dispute process at the credit bureaus has been broken for a long time,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “It’s been very frustrating for consumers because they haven’t been able to correct their reports.”