Given the volume of consumer information gathered by the three largest reporting agencies in the U.S, it’s inevitable that errors will occur on some reports. This is why the FCRA provides consumers the means to detect inaccuracies in their reports and file complaints. It also requires reporting agencies to investigate and correct false, or deceptive information. Mistakes are often clerical, but sometimes they’re the result of old information reported as current.
How Can You File An FCRA Complaint?
If you dispute an incorrect item in your credit report, and the credit reporting agency refuses to fix it, you'll have to take additional steps to remedy the problem, like:
- Contacting the creditor directly
- Filing another dispute with the credit reporting agency, but including more information
- Filing a complaint about the credit reporting agency with a government entity
- Lodging a complaint about the creditor with a government entity
- Filing a complaint with your state consumer protection agency
- Contacting your congressional representative or senator
- Suing the credit reporting agency or creditor
- Adding an explanatory statement to your credit report
The extent to which a victim can be compensated depends largely on whether the violation was willful or negligent.
Types of damages that can be compensated for, as a result of wilful violations include:
- Actual damages. These are damages that can be proved because of harm caused by an action or failure to act by the agency, business or individual. There is no limit to how high an award can be.
- Statutory damages. These are damages that don’t require proof, but the compensation is limited to somewhere between $100 and $1,000.
- Punitive damages. These are awarded to punish an agency, business or individual and deter them from violating the FCRA again. There is no limit on how much can be awarded.
- Attorney fees and court costs. You can have the cost of litigating the matter covered if you win your case.
What Is The Fair Credit Reporting Act?
Experian defines The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as a “federal law that helps to ensure the accuracy, fairness and privacy of the information in consumer credit bureau files.” The FCRA regulates how credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data collected in consumer reports.
The purpose of this act is to help consumers understand what actions they can take regarding information in their credit reports. It helps establish their rights when it comes to third parties accessing, sharing, or using their credit report data.
The rights given to the consumer under the FCRA consists of a number of clauses which aim to protect the consumer. These rights are listed below.
- Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information.
- Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information.
- Access to your file is limited. A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need (these needs are specified by the FCRA).
- You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers.
- You may limit "pre-screened" offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report.
- You may seek damages from violators.
- Identity theft victims and active-duty military personnel have additional rights.
When To Talk To A Lawyer?
Be careful when making a decision regarding disputes. Be mindful of the costs involved if the dispute proceeds to court, as well as the chances of winning the dispute.
Credit reporting bureaus have the right to terminate investigations of violations if the agency determines that the consumer’s complaint is frivolous or irrelevant.Make sure you have kept your timing within the specified period.
There are four key deadlines to remember when dealing with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Inaccurate information must be corrected or deleted within 30 days of your dispute (or up to 45 days if you provide additional information after submitting your written dispute).
- Businesses or other information furnishers must tell you about any negative information reported to the credit bureaus within 30 days.
- The statute of limitations for filing a suit is two years after the date you discovered a violation or within five years of the date of the violation.
Your credit report is an important and powerful document. Errors in your credit history can be financially devastating. Carefully read through your credit reports, and file any disputes regarding inaccurate information, and wilful, or negligent actions made under the FCRA. If your dispute is rejected, contact a lawyer or a legal representative firm, like Fair Credit for better representation. Remember your rights as a consumer, and the FCRA law which offers consumer protection.