Consumer Reports calls on credit bureaus to make credit reports always free and to 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 the end of 2023, but called on the agencies to make free credit reports permanent for consumers. The credit bureaus announcement comes just one week after Consumer Reports called on them to take a number of steps to ensure credit reports are accurate, including making credit reports always free for consumers so they can keep an eye out for mistakes. A petition in support of free credit reports has already garnered nearly 40,000 signatures in just one week.
“Extending free weekly access to credit reports for another year is a positive 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 financial data. Consumers should be able to check their credit reports at no charge whenever they want so they can easily check for credit-damaging errors.”
Under current law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each major credit bureau each year through annualcreditreport.com. During the pandemic, the credit bureaus voluntarily agreed to provide consumers with free weekly access to credit reports, but had only committed to doing so through the end of 2022. Today’s announcement extends free weekly credit reports for another year.
Consumer complaints about credit reports submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have risen dramatically in recent years, more than doubling between 2018 and 2021 and are on track to set a new record this year. During the first six months of 2022, credit report complaints accounted for nearly three-quarters of all complaints collected by the CFPB. Inaccurate information has been the top credit report-related complaint in recent years according to the agency’s complaint database.
“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,” said Ejaz. “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.”
CR has called on the credit bureaus to take a number of steps to improve credit report accuracy, including strengthened measures to ensure the information in reports is matched to the correct consumer, more thorough error dispute investigations, and enhanced document retention.
Estimates vary on how commonly errors appear in credit reports. More than a third of nearly 6,000 volunteers who participated in Consumer Reports’ Credit Checkup project in 2021 found mistakes when they reviewed their credit reports. A nationally representative survey conducted by CR in January 2021 of 2,223 adults found that 12 percent of people who had ever checked their credit reports said they found errors. In 2012, the FTC found that 20 percent of consumers had at least one verified error on their credit reports, and that five percent had errors that could make them pay more for products such as a car loan or insurance.