What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

FCRA Fair Credit Reporting Act on a table.

October 26, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important pieces of consumer protection legislation in the country’s history: The Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. It gives consumers the right to see what’s on their credit reports and dispute errors and inaccurate information.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at this legislation and discuss and how a Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyer can help you.

What does the FCRA require from credit reporting agencies?

According to the FCRA, the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and Transunion – are required to do the following:

Woman looking up credit report1. Give you a copy of your credit file upon request

The credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your credit report when:

  • A business has denied an application or charged a higher interest rate based on your report
  • You’re out of work and will be looking for a job within the next two months
  • You’ve begun collecting welfare
  • You’re a victim of identity theft or your report contains inaccurate information because of that identity theft

In addition, the credit bureaus are required to provide a free copy of your report upon request every twelve months.  The reports may be requested once per year through their clearinghouse website annualcreditreport.com, or you may write to the bureau directly.

2. Investigate disputed items

If you spot an error on your credit report, you must send a written dispute to the credit bureau.  The FCRA requires the credit bureaus to investigate.  You must provide documentation with your dispute letter that supports your claim.  The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute.  If the problem has not been resolved, you may need to send a second dispute.

3. Correct errors on your report

If there is incorrect information on your report, the credit bureaus must fix it or delete it within 30 days of your dispute. (They have 45 days if you submit additional information after filing your initial dispute. They must also delete outdated negative information that’s more than seven to 10 years old – depending on the type of information.

The FCRA says credit bureaus must also:

  • Provide you with a copy of your credit score upon request. (There may be a cost to obtain your score.)
  • Limit access to your report only to businesses with permission to view it.
  • Provide you with the chance to opt-out of pre-screened credit offers
  • Never give your credit report to businesses or employers without your consent

BankWhat does the FCRA require from credit furnishers?

The FCRA also governs the credit furnishers  — banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and other financing companies  —  that provide information to the credit bureaus. Under the law, the furnishers:

  • Cannot provide  inaccurate information
  • Must update and correct inaccurate information promptly
  • Must have a procedure to respond to notices from the credit bureaus about identity theft
  • Must tell you about negative information within 30 days
  • Must inform the credit bureaus if you close an account voluntarily

Businesses, such as lenders, employers and landlords,  who use the information on your credit report to determine approval of an application, have their own rules to follow under the FCRA.  First, they must get your permission to access your credit report. Second,  they must inform you in writing if you’ve been denied. The letter must explain why you were denied, and identify the credit bureau that supplied the report to conclude the denial.

How a Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyer can help you

If you think your rights under the FCRA have been violated – whether it’s by a credit bureau or a furnisher, you can seek damages with the help of a Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyer.

Law Teaam at Consumers LawThe attorneys at Flitter Milz have extensive experience dealing with FCRA violations and can help you seek redress if your consumer rights have been violated. Contact us today for a free consultation.