The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is cracking down on specialty credit reporting agencies, warning companies that they must make it easy for people to get free copies of their credit reports annually.
The agency's latest enforcement effort is directed not at the so-called "big three" agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – but rather at the 400 or so little-known companies that track information related to consumers' check-writing, medical payments, tenancy, employment or insurance claims.
In a press call with reporters, CFPB enforcement head Kent Markus described what amounted to an undercover sting by agency investigators, who called up the specialty agencies and asked for free copies of their credit reports. "For some [companies], this was a puzzling question," Markus said.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide a streamlined process for consumers to obtain their credit reports free of charge. Consumers also have a right to dispute the information in these reports, and the credit agencies are required to investigate and correct any inaccuracies.
Six (unnamed) companies received warning letters from the CFPB for failing to provide easy access to credit reports. According to Markus, companies at a minimum should provide a toll-free 800 number so consumers can request the reports.
"Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies can have great influence over a consumer's tenancy, insurance premiums, or even employment," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a news release. "Today, the CFPB is reminding these companies that they must follow the law and provide consumers with easy access to their free annual report. If we have reason to believe that companies are not following the law, we will take action."