U.S. News

Multi-state accord to aid consumers with credit report errors

(Reuters) - The three major U.S. consumer credit reporting agencies have agreed to improve their approach to fixing mistakes on consumers’ reports and address disputes more effectively, under a settlement with 31 state attorneys general announced on Wednesday.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, which have credit data for more than 200 million Americans, will also pay $6 million to the states for consumer education and other costs.

The accord expands upon their March 9 agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to improve how they interact with consumers.

Under Wednesday’s settlement, the credit bureaus will more closely scrutinize companies that furnish them with data, and curb the marketing of credit monitoring products to consumers who dispute information on their reports.

They also agreed to add protections for consumers who have disputes, wait 180 days before placing medical debt in reports, refrain from adding fines and tickets to reports, and educate consumers unhappy with dispute resolutions about their options.

Consumers can also obtain one extra free credit report in a 12-month period if they have disputes.

Wednesday’s settlement followed a probe begun by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2012, amid concern that consumers were having trouble fixing flawed reports, potentially impeding their ability to buy homes or cars, or get jobs.

“This settlement requires the credit reporting agencies to do a better, more careful job, to produce more accurate credit reports, and to be much more responsive when consumers call to correct their mistakes,” DeWine said in a statement.

Stuart Pratt, president of the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group representing the credit bureaus, said that apart from the payments the latest accord “essentially adopts” the Schneiderman plan.

He said Wednesday’s settlement was reached with a goal of moving forward on that plan, and “in the interest of concluding the dialogue” with the other attorneys general.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz