CFPB Encourages Consumers To “Hold Accountable” Consumer Reporting Companies By Filing Disputes and FCRA Lawsuits

On January 27, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published its updated annual list of consumer reporting companies for the purpose of encouraging consumers to seek access to their files, and sue if they believe there is a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) violation.  The CFPB’s press release announcing the list suggests that the named companies “collect and sell access to people’s data, including individuals’ finances, employment, check writing histories, or rental history records, often without their knowledge.”  It advises consumers that they have a “right to see what information these firms have” about them, and if they find “information in their consumer reports that appears to be inaccurate, they have the right to file a dispute and the consumer reporting company is required to conduct a reasonable investigation.”

The list names more than 50 different consumer reporting companies, including employment and tenant screening companies, and provides contact and other background information about the companies, such as the extent to which each will provide free consumer reports upon request.  It informs consumers that “[t]hese companies use these reports to inform decisions about providing you with credit, employment, residential rental housing, insurance, and in other decision-making situations. . . [However] [w]ith the exception of employment screening, users of consumer reports generally do not warn you in advance if they are about to take an adverse action against you based in whole or in part on information in your consumer reports.”  Accordingly, the list advises that consumers should “[f]act-check [their] consumer credit reports from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) every twelve months to ensure they are accurate and complete,” and “[i]f you are applying for a job, home rental, or insurance policy, also fact-check your background screening reports to ensure there are no errors.”  The list further advises consumers that the CFPB “handle[s] consumer reporting complaints about report accuracy and completeness errors and other consumer reporting topics,” and thus “if you are dissatisfied with a company’s investigation of an earlier dispute, if you believe your consumer report was used improperly, if you have problems getting access to your own consumer reports, and if you are dissatisfied with consumer reporting products and services provided to you. . . .[y]ou can submit complaints to the CFPB online.”

Consumer reporting agencies named on the CFPB’s list should prepare for a potential influx of consumer inquiries, and ensure that their reporting and dispute-handling policies are compliant with FCRA, including by using reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy in consumer reports.