FTC Issues Report: “Forty Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act”

The Federal Trade Commission today issued a staff report, that compiles and updates the agency’s guidance on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the 1970 law designed to protect the privacy of credit report information and ensure that the information supplied by credit reporting agencies is as accurate as possible. A credit report contains information about a consumer’s personal and credit characteristics, character, and general reputation and is used to make credit, employment, insurance and other decisions.

The new staff report, entitled “Forty Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act: An FTC Staff Report and Summary of Interpretations,” provides a brief overview of the FTC’s role in enforcing and interpreting the FCRA and includes a section-by-section summary of the agency’s interpretations of the Act.

The FTC is also withdrawing the agency’s 1990 Commentary on the FCRA, which has become partially obsolete since it was issued 21 years ago. The 1990 Commentary was comprised of a series of FTC statements about how it would enforce the various provisions of the FCRA. Since 1990, the FRCA has been updated several times, most significantly by the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, known as the FACT Act. Both updates expanded the provisions of the FCRA.

The new staff report deletes several FTC interpretations in the 1990 Commentary that have since been repealed, amended, or have become obsolete or outdated. It also modifies some interpretations in the 1990 Commentary, and adds several interpretations reflecting changes that Congress has made to the FCRA over the years, rules issued by the FTC and other agencies under the FACT Act, statements in numerous staff opinion letters, and the staff’s experience from significant enforcement actions.

Recent legislation has transferred the authority to issue interpretive guidance under the FCRA to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Withdrawing the 1990 Commentary now will ensure that this obsolete document does not transfer to the CFPB.

The Commission vote approving the staff report on the FCRA and withdrawing the 1990 Commentary was 5-0. The report and Federal Register notice can be found on the FTC’s website and as links to this press release. More information for consumers about the FRCA can be found here.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

(FTC File No. P024808)

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