Credit Reporting Agencies Agree to Clean Up Their Data

Consumers will have an easier time disputing credit report errors, and data furnishers will be held to higher standards.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMarch 9, 2015

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion on Monday announced a National Consumer Assistance Plan as part of their deal with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to improve how they handle medical debt and consumer disputes over errors. The deal is also a result of efforts to improve data accuracy and quality.

According to a joint press release published on the Consumer Data Industry Association’s website, consumers who obtain their free annual credit report, dispute information in it, and the dispute results in modification of the credit item would be able to obtain another free annual report without waiting a year.

Moreover, consumers who dispute items on their credit reports from one of the three largest credit reporting agencies would receive additional information from the credit bureaus along with the results of their dispute, including a description of what they can do if they are not satisfied with the outcome.

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Medical debts won’t be reported until after a 180-day “waiting period” to allow insurance payments to be applied, according to the press release. The CRAs would also remove from credit reports previously reported medical collections that have been or are being paid by insurance.

Other improvements to data accuracy and quality that are part of the deal require the following:

  • Data furnishers would be prohibited from reporting authorized users without a date of birth and the credit reporting agencies would reject data that does not comply.
  • The CRAs would eliminate the reporting of debts that did not arise from a contract or agreement by the consumer to pay, such as tickets or fines.
  • A multi-company working group would be formed to regularly review and help ensure consistency and uniformity in the data submitted by data furnishers for inclusion in a consumer’s credit report.

“The National Consumer Assistance Plan we are announcing today will enhance our ability to offer accurate reports and make the process of dealing with credit information easier and more transparent for consumers,” Stuart Pratt, president and chief executive of the Consumer Data Industry Association, said in the press release.

Implementation of the consumer assistance plan would begin over the next few months, according to the press release. The CRAs would continue their dialogue with “additional attorneys general, and further announcements could be made in coming months.”

A Reuters article Monday said the deal comes on the heels of other efforts to improve how medical debt is treated in credit reports.

“Last August, personal credit score provider FICO said it would leave out or discount medical debt from its scores, which would boost the credit record of many borrowers, while helping lenders to better assess risk,” Reuters wrote.

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