The Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted by Congress in October 1970. It was designed to provide protection for consumers against abuses from the credit reporting companies. (There are three big national companies: Equifax, Transunion and Experian.)
One of the purposes of the law was to level the playing field between consumers and the credit reporting companies.
Under the law, credit reporting companies, or “Bureaus” as they are called in the lending industry, are required to follow certain rules and fix mistakes contained in the credit reports that they create.
The law also creates certain remedies, including the right to sue for damages, if the bureaus don’t do what they are supposed to.
Here are four things that everyone should know about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA):
1. You have the right to know the information contained in your credit report.
The act requires credit reporting agencies to give you FREE access to the information they have collected about you once every 12 months.
You can obtain these reports either by writing to each of the individual credit bureaus or on the internet at AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. If there is an error on a report, there are steps you can take to fix it.
You have the right to dispute information contained in your credit report if that information is not accurate.
The FCRA requires that credit reporting agencies have reasonable procedures in place that that ensure the accuracy of the information that they report.
That being said, errors can, and do, show up on people’s credit reports.
When a credit bureau is made aware of a potential error, the law requires that they conduct an investigation.
The law says that a credit bureau has 30 days to look into your dispute, based on the information you provide to it.
If the dispute is not verified within 30 days, then that individual bureau is required to delete that item from the credit report.
If you have properly disputed an inaccurate item on your credit report and the bureau refuses to take action, you should consult a lawyer. The FCRA gives you the right, under proper circumstances, to seek appropriate remedies in a court of law, including damages and attorney’s fees.
3. Negative information on your credit report is subject to a time limit.
You don’t have a right to dispute negative information on your credit report that is accurate, and is being accurately reported.
That information cannot, however, be reported forever. The FCRA provides that even accurately reported negative information may only be reported by the bureaus for seven years.
This rule does not apply to bankruptcies, they can be reported for up to 10 years.
4. You have the right to know if you have been denied credit or charged a higher
interest rate as a result of information that is contained in your credit report.
Creditors and employers are also required by the FCRA to tell you if these things happen. This part of the law is there so that you are alerted to potential problems in your report. It is up to you to investigate this information and dispute it if it is inaccurate.