Experian Asks US Supreme Court to Hear Towing Collection Case

In 2003, Mrs. Pintos sued a debt collector that had used her credit report to collect a tow company’s bill for towing her car from a San Francisco street. Her claim is that the debt collector violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act because it lacked a permissible purpose to look at her credit report. The FCRA forbids persons who are not creditors from looking at consumers’ credit reports. Mrs. Pintos also sued Experian, the credit bureau that furnished the report to the collection agency. Our law firm represents Mrs. Pintos in the case.

Both sides appealed the trial court’s rulings. The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with Mrs Pintos that the debt collector lacked a legally proper reason to obtain her credit report. The Court also agreed that Experian should not have furnished Mrs Pintos’s report to the collection agency. It sent the case back to the district court for a trial.

Last summer Experian asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Recently we filed our brief in opposition to Experian’s petition for certiorari.

The Pintos case establishes that a debt collector is not allowed to look at the consumer’s credit report unless the “debt” arose out of a credit transaction involving the consumer. What this means is that collection agencies cannot pull credit reports to use in collecting all debts. Only those debts that arose out of a credit transaction that the consumer entered into voluntarily give the collector a ‘permissible purpose’ under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

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