7th Circuit Holds Credit Bureaus’ Disclosures Must be Clear & Accurate

On May 3, 2007, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that credit bureaus such as Equifax, Experian & Trans Union must provide consumers credit disclosures that are not only accurate, but “clear.” In Gillespie v Equifax, the plaintiffs requested their credit reports, which, among other things, listed the “date of last activity” on certain collection accounts. Depending on what event triggered the listing in this category, the report could lack clarity as to when delinquency had occurred. Having clarity on this point could be important to the consumer because, under FCRA, a consumer report may not include “accounts placed for collection or charged to profit and loss which antedate the report by more than seven years.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681c(a)(4). Here’s what the Seventh Circuit held:

We conclude that the consumer reporting agency must do more than simply make an accurate disclosure of the information in the consumer’s credit file. The disclosure must be made in a manner sufficient to allow the consumer to compare the disclosed information from the credit file against the consumer’s personal information in order to allow the consumer to determine the accuracy of the information set forth in her credit file. In writing § 1681g(a)(1), Congress requires disclosure that is both “clearly and accurately” made. An accurate disclosure of unclear information defeats the consumer’s ability to review the credit file, eliminating a consumer protection procedure established by Congress under the FCRA.

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