The Federal Trade Commission today told the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services that the agency will continue its efforts to improve the accuracy of credit report information and to enhance consumers’ ability to dispute and correct inaccurate information.
Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, described the FTC’s progress toward these goals, including enforcing the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and offering guidance for consumers and for consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), furnishers of information to CRAs, and consumer report users.
The testimony noted several significant FTC enforcement actions, including cases in which the three principal nationwide CRAs (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) agreed to pay a total of $2.5 million in civil penalties for allegedly failing to maintain adequate personnel to respond to consumers registering disputes, and a case against Far West Credit, a Utah-based CRA that agreed to pay $120,000 in civil penalties for allegedly failing to use reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy of information in consumer reports.
The testimony also cited recent actions against three companies that allegedly furnished inaccurate information to CRAs, and cases in which two telecommunications carriers were ordered to pay a total of almost $1.5 million in civil penalties for allegedly failing to provide consumers with adverse action notices that would enable them to dispute inaccurate information in their reports.
The testimony described the Commission’s many publications to educate businesses about their legal responsibilities and to inform consumers of their rights and legal remedies, noting that the FTC receives up to 20,000 contacts per week from consumers asking how to recover from identity theft or avoid becoming a victim.
Noting the provisions of FACTA that help reduce identity theft and help consumers respond to it, the testimony related that the FTC initiated an identity theft education program last year (“Deter, Detect, Defend”) and recently helped launch a new Web site ( www.idtheft.gov) that eventually will serve as a centralized government clearinghouse for educational resources for consumers, businesses, and law enforcement on ways to prevent and detect identity theft and help victims recover.
According to the testimony, the FTC and other agencies have completed most of the FACTA-mandated rules, guides, forms, and notices, and the agencies are committed to completing the tasks that remain. In addition, either acting alone or with other agencies, the FTC has completed six FACTA-mandated studies related to consumer report accuracy, and two studies are still in progress.
“The Commission is troubled that, despite its efforts, consumers continue to report errors in their credit reports that have made it difficult, or more expensive, to obtain credit, insurance, or employment,” the testimony concluded. “The Commission is committed to using all of the tools at its disposal to address consumer report accuracy concerns.”
The Commission vote authorizing the presentation of the testimony and its inclusion in
the formal record was 5-0. A copy of the testimony can be found on the FTC’s Web site and as a link to this press release.
Copies of the testimony are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.