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Senators Schatz, Warren, McCaskill, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Protect Consumers from Credit Report Errors

Washington, D.C. – Today, in honor of the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act, legislation that would make it easier for consumers to identify and correct errors in their credit reports and hold credit reporting agencies accountable.  The SECURE Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

“At every opportunity, Republicans have tried to dismantle the historic consumer protections that Dodd-Frank created, but consumers deserve better,” said Senator Schatz.  “We should do more to protect consumers – starting with their credit reports.  Credit reports are used for everything from buying a home to getting a job.  But today millions of consumers have damaging errors in their reports which can be difficult to correct.  Our bill will help people correct errors on their credit reports and hold reporting agencies and data furnishers accountable for their mistakes.”

Credit report errors can lower consumers’ credit scores, leading to higher interest rates and costs for consumers.  In addition to financing, credit reports are increasingly used by employers and can determine whether or not someone can get a job.  In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their credit reports.  And one in twenty had an error that was significant enough to downgrade them into a lower credit tier.

“Credit reports regularly contain errors that can make it harder for families to access credit, find jobs, and get housing,” said Senator Warren.  “And as many consumers know all too well, it's very difficult to get those errors corrected.  The SECURE Act will cut down on the inaccuracies in credit reports and make it easier for consumers to correct any errors they discover.”

“Missouri consumers should be able to expect accurate and easy access to their own credit reports,” said Senator McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.  “Unfortunately, for too long, companies have taken advantage of consumers by making access to credit reports difficult at best, and subject to court proceedings at worst.  To better ensure we’re helping folks achieve the financial security they’ve worked for, we’ve got to have better access to these reports, and a better avenue for resolving disputes when they arise.”

The SECURE Act would make changes to the credit reporting industry that would:

  • Make credit reports more accurate.  Currently, there are no minimum standards for credit reporting agencies (CRA) and data furnishers to accurately match consumers’ names, addresses, or Social Security numbers, often resulting in incorrect information included in a consumer’s credit report.  The SECURE Act would direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to establish minimum procedures that a CRA must follow to ensure maximum possible accuracy of consumer reports.  When errors are caught, the bill would require CRAs to gather and report information on consumer disputes and resolutions.  It would also require CRAs to pass along documentation sent by consumers to data furnishers, making it easier for consumers to correct their credit report.
  • Give consumers the information they need.  While consumers today are entitled to free credit reports, they can be difficult to interpret.  The SECURE Act would ensure that consumers get the information they need to understand their credit reports by enabling consumers to understand how their credit report is being used and by whom.  It would also allow them to see the same information that is used by lenders to deny a consumer credit or increase interest rates and would provide consumers with access to meaningful credit scores free of charge annually.
  • Protect children from identity theft.  Stealing a child’s identity can go undetected for years and inflict significant damage on the child’s credit report.  This legislation would enable parents to impose a security freeze on their child’s credit report to protect their child from identity theft and keep their credit reports clean.
  • Give regulators better tools for enforcement.  CRAs and data furnishers operate in a system with little transparency and accountability.  This legislation would create a national registry of CRAs so that consumers know which companies are collecting and disseminating information about them.  It would also direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of existing public credit reporting systems and evaluate the feasibility, as well as the costs and benefits, of creating a national credit reporting system in the United States.
  • Give consumers legal remedies.  The legislation would provide injunctive relief as a remedy for consumers who sue CRAs under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and hold CRAs accountable to the FTC for negligent violations of the FCRA.

The legislation is supported by Consumers Union, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA), Demos, U.S. PIRG, and Consumer Action.