If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have your identity stolen or simply had incorrect information listed on your credit report and found the response from the major credit reporting bureaus to be somewhat lacking, good news!
Transunion, Equifax, and Experian have all agreed to make a number of major changes in how they report credit information and handle certain types of disputes. These changes all stem from an investigation brought on by the attorneys general of 31 states. Consumer complaints about how these credit bureaus gathered information and managed disputes led to the investigation, which ended when the three agencies agreed to pay the states $6 million and implement the following reforms:
- Fines and tickets are generally not allowed to be included in credit reports.
- Medical debt cannot appear on a consumer credit report for at least 180 days old after the account has been initially reported to the credit reporting agency.
- Debt collectors must provide the original creditor’s information when reporting a debt.
- Agencies must provide a process for handling escalated disputes, such as cases of identity theft or fraud.
- Each agency is required to notify the other agencies if it finds that a consumer’s credit report contains information that belongs in a different consumer’s credit file.
- Agencies must forward a consumer’s supporting documents to the data furnisher when applicable.
- Consumers are entitled to one additional free credit report in a 12-month period if they successfully dispute information on their credit report and their report is modified as a result.
- Agencies must advise consumers on how they can take further action after an investigation into a dispute had been completed.
- AnnualCreditReport.com must contain links to each credit reporting agency’s dispute website and ads are not allowed on that site.
All of these are positive changes for consumers. In particular, the newly imposed delay on delinquent medical debts provides consumers with additional time to sort out those issues with their provider before their credit report is impacted. Creating an escalated process for complex disputes like identity theft, meanwhile, should make resolving complicated credit problems much less of a headache.
These changes won’t be immediate, however. Per the settlement, the credit reporting agencies will have 3 years and 90 days to complete all the required changes.