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Attorney General DeWine Announces Major National Settlement with Credit Reporting Agencies

5/20/2015

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and 30 other state attorneys general today announced a major settlement with the three main credit reporting agencies — Equifax Information Services LLC, Experian Information Solutions Inc., and TransUnion LLC.

Under the settlement, the credit reporting agencies have agreed to make a number of changes to their business practices to benefit consumers.

“Today is a good day for all consumers. We are announcing a comprehensive multistate settlement that will help protect consumers from credit reports that are wrong, out of date, or even mixed up with someone else’s report, and it will reduce the chance that a consumer is wrongly denied a house loan, a car loan, or even a job, because of an inaccurate credit report,” Attorney General DeWine said.

The settlement is the result of a multistate investigation that Attorney General DeWine initiated in 2012.

“This settlement requires the credit reporting agencies to do a better, more careful job, to produce more accurate credit reports, and to be much more responsive when consumers call to correct their mistakes,” added DeWine.

The investigation focused on consumer disputes about credit report errors, monitoring and disciplining data furnishers (providers of credit reporting information), accuracy in consumer credit reports, and the marketing of credit monitoring products to consumers who call the credit reporting agencies to dispute information on their credit report.

Under the settlement, the credit reporting agencies have agreed to increase monitoring of data furnishers, to require additional information from furnishers of certain types of data, to limit direct-to-consumer marketing, to provide greater protections for consumers who dispute information on their credit reports, to limit certain information that can be added to a credit report, to provide additional consumer education, and to comply with state and federal laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Key provisions of the settlement – an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance – include:

Higher standards for data furnishers:

  • The credit reporting agencies must maintain information about problem data furnishers and provide a list of those furnishers to the states upon request.
  • The credit reporting agencies and data furnishers must use a better, more detailed system to share data. 

Limits to direct-to-consumer marketing:

  • The credit reporting agencies cannot market credit monitoring services to a consumer during a dispute phone call until the dispute portion of the call has ended.
  • The credit reporting agencies must tell consumers that purchasing a product is not a requirement for disputing information on their credits reports.

Added protections for consumers who dispute credit reporting information:

  • The credit reporting agencies must implement an escalated process for handling complicated disputes, such as those involving identity theft, fraud, or mixed files (in which one consumer’s information is mixed with another’s). 
  • Each credit reporting agency must notify the other agencies if it finds a mixed file.
  • The credit reporting agencies must send a consumer’s supporting documents to the data furnisher. (The credit reporting agencies implemented this change after the attorneys general initiated their investigation and raised the concern that the pertinent complaint documents were not being sent to the furnishers.) 
  • Consumers may obtain one additional free credit report in a 12-month period if they dispute information on their credit report and a change is made as a result of the dispute.

Limits to certain information that can be added to a consumer’s credit report:

  • The credit reporting agencies are generally prohibited from adding information about fines and tickets to credit reports.
  • The credit reporting agencies cannot place medical debt on a credit report until 180 days after the account is reported to the credit reporting agency, which gives consumers time to work out issues with their insurance companies.
  • The credit reporting agencies must require debt collectors to provide the original creditor’s name and information about the debt before the debt information can be added to a credit report.

Additional consumer education:

  • The credit reporting agencies must tell consumers how they can further dispute the outcome of an investigation into a dispute, such as by filing a complaint with other agencies.
  • Each credit reporting agency must provide a link to its online dispute website on the website www.annualcreditreport.com, and the credit reporting agency’s dispute website must be free of ads and any marketing offers.

The changes required under the settlement will be implemented in three phases to allow the credit reporting agencies to update their IT systems and procedures with data furnishers. All changes must be completed by three years and 90 days following the settlement’s effective date.

A violation of the settlement by any of the credit reporting agencies can be enforced according to state law. In Ohio, for example, a violation of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance is prima facie evidence of a violation of the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, meaning it would provide sufficient proof for the state to establish a case.

Under the settlements, the credit reporting agencies also will pay the participating states $6 million. As the lead state, Ohio will receive $459,912.80 under the settlement.

Participating in the settlement are the attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

In addition to launching the 2012 investigation that led to this settlement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also established an Identity Theft Unit in 2012 to help victims of identity theft clear credit reporting errors and other problems caused by identity theft.

To date, the Identity Theft Unit has received more than 3,000 identity theft complaints and has helped clear more than $750,000 in fraudulent accounts, according to information provided in consumer complaints.

Consumers who want to learn more or receive help from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office should visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or call 800-282-0515.

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Documents

Settlement - Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (PDF)

Media Contacts

Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Kate Hanson: 614-466-3840

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