Consumer Reports calls on credit bureaus to make free credit reports permanent and improve credit report accuracy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports applauded the three major credit bureaus today for extending access to free weekly credit reports until April 20, 2022, and called on the agencies to make free credit reports permanent for consumers. In addition, CR is calling on the credit bureaus to take steps to improve credit report accuracy in light of the record number of consumer complaints about credit report errors in recent years.
“Extending free weekly access to credit reports for another year is a good first step, but credit reports should be made free permanently,” said Syed Ejaz, policy analyst for Consumer Reports. “There is no good reason why consumers should be charged at all to access their own data. The credit bureaus are already profiting handsomely selling access to consumer data to lenders and a whole host of other firms that regularly check credit reports.”
Under current law, consumers have the right to access their credit reports for free once per year through annualcreditreport.com. Last year, the major credit bureaus agreed to make credit reports available for free once per week through April 2021. Today’s announcement extended free weekly access through April 2022.
Consumer Reports noted that consumer complaints about credit reports accounted for more than 50 percent of all consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2020. Incorrect information on credit reports was the top complaint according to the CFPB. Complaints about credit report errors more than doubled in the past year, going from 90,712 complaints in 2019 to 196,073 complaints in 2020.
“Consumer complaints about credit reports have skyrocketed during the pandemic and those mistakes can have serious financial consequences for Americans struggling to stay afloat during these tough economic times,” said Ejaz. “No one should lose out on opportunities like an apartment or job or pay a higher interest rate on a loan because of an error on their credit report. The credit bureaus need to ensure credit reports are accurate so that everyone stands a better chance of accessing affordable credit and building a financially stable life and secure future.”
Consumer Reports noted that the bureaus can increase the accuracy of reports and strengthen the dispute process by making sure their automated dispute processes take into account all documentation provided by the consumer. In additon, the bureaus can improve the accuracy of credit reports by matching all digits of consumers’ social security numbers when placing account information on credit reports.
Consumer Reports has called for a number of reforms to reform the credit reporting system, including the Comprehensive Credit Rating Enhancement, Disclosure, Innovation, and Transparency (CREDIT) Act of 2020, which was passed by the House last year. Among other things, the bill would reform the dispute process to make it easier for consumers to fix errors on their credit reports; shorten the time that adverse information stays on a credit report from 7 years to 4 years; and strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority to monitor credit scoring models.
In light of the record number of consumer complaints about credit reports, CR is teaming up with a group of consumer organizations to launch the Credit Checkup project to help consumers review their credit reports and provide advice on what to look for and how to correct errors if they find them. Consumers can sign up for the project at cr.org/creditcheckup
Consumers who sign up to participate in the Credit Checkup will play a key role in a people-powered research project by filling out a brief survey to report on their experience. Consumer Reports will analyze that data and use it to hold the credit bureaus accountable for keeping credit reports accurate. To get the word out about the Credit Checkup, CR is partnering with Americans for Financial Reform, Consumer Action, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, and USPIRG.
Contact: Michael McCauley, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-902-9537