(California News Service) Consumer groups are pressing for legislation to reform the way credit agencies handle errors on credit reports.
The calls to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act come in the wake of an admission by Equifax last month that a coding problem caused sizable shifts in the credit scores of about 300,000 people. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Calif., is seeking bipartisan cosponsors for a bill to require credit agencies to respond to inquiries from third-party credit-repair companies or consumer nonprofits.
"Every day," he said, "banks, employees and government entities rely on credit reports to make critical decisions regarding an American's viability for home and car loans, employment and even government benefits, which are so critical today."
Equifax released a statement in August saying it has fixed the coding error but did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill. Right now, a loophole allows agencies to disregard correspondence on credit disputes if it doesn't come directly from the consumer.
"If agencies don't have to even touch the mail, that leaves community members that are really trying to change the game for their lives- and their kids - growing up in neighborhoods with a lot of violence," said the Rev. Andre Chapple, chief executive of the African American Empowerment Coalition in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that educates people about credit issues that can keep them from renting an apartment, buying a car or getting a job. "And they want to relocate, but they can't, because their credit score is suffering with a bunch of inaccurate things on there. It's just really unfair."
Michael Claunch, a senior adviser to the American Association of Consumer Credit Professionals, said consumers deserve access to expert help to repair their credit.
"Because the process of improving your credit is confusing, difficult and time-consuming," he said, "then third parties - such as credit repair organizations, as well as nonprofit community organizations - are needed in it."
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 98 percent of the time, the big three credit-reporting agencies fail to provide relief to people who complain about errors on their credit reports.