What is FCRA?
FCRA or Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law practiced
in the United States. It is designed to ensure that consumer reporting agencies
(CRAs) act fairly, impartially, and with respect to the consumer's right to
privacy when preparing consumer reports on individuals. FCRA promotes accuracy,
fairness, and the privacy of personal information collected by Credit Reporting
Agencies or CRAs.
History of FCRA
FCRA was a critical statute revised in a commendable manner by the Congress and courts way back in the year 1970. Regulating the use of personal information by private businesses was first brought about by FCRA. It was implemented keeping in mind the growing credit reporting industry in the United States, which compiled "consumer credit reports" and "investigative consumer reports" on individuals.Retail Credit Co, which started in 1899, was the first major credit reporting agency in the US. After years of years of legislative leadership by Representative Leonor Sullivan and Senator William Proxmire FCRA was functionalized in the year 1970.
How is FCRA related to FACTA?
FCRA and FACTA are like opposite sides of the same coin and
complement each other rightly. After the successful passage of FCRA in the year
1970, detailed amendments to the FCRA were made in the Consumer Credit Reporting
Reform Act of 1996. The Amendments were made keeping in mind the qualitative
improvements to the FCRA in several avenues. However it included provisions
that allow affiliate sharing of credit reports, prescreening of credit reports
(unsolicited offers of credit made to certain consumers), and limited preemption
of stronger state laws on credit. In 2003, the 108th Congress revised the FCRA
and implemented the "Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act" (FACTA).
The FACTA ensures some state privacy protections, and also includes numerous
improvements on credit reporting law, including free annual credit reports being
provided to consumers.
Consumer Protection Rights by FCRA
FCRA along with FACTA ensures certain legal privileges to the consumers and protects them from harassment. FCRA empowers the rights of a consumer in various ways.
- Individuals with good credit scores can obtain credit more easily, and at
lower interest rates.
- The Consumer has the right to access his credit report. You can request
your credit report from the CRA directly.
- You have the right to a free copy when an entity takes an "adverse
action" against you based on the credit report. Free copies are also
justified where the individual is unemployed and seeking employment, where
the report is inaccurate because of fraud, and where the individual is on
- Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) of 2003, that
is an amended version of the FCRA, consumers may now request a free annual
credit report from each of the three major CRAs.
- The FCRA also prohibits the provision of reports that contain medical information
for employment purposes without notice and explicit affirmative consent for
release of the health data.
- Target marketing is not a permissible use of credit reports. Currently,
both Equifax and Experian have entered into an agreement with the FTC to prevent
any use of credit reports for target marketing.
- The FACTA of 2003 ensures that a creditor should notify a consumer if it
offers credit terms that are less favorable when compared to the privileges
of a general consumer.
- The FACTA of 2003, which is complementary to the FCRA, excludes additional
categories of employee investigation data from credit reports, thus eliminating
protections offered by the FCRA. If the investigation is of suspected misconduct
relating to employment, compliance with the law, or compliance with pre-existing
written policies of the employer, it should not be regulated by the FCRA.
However, if the employer takes an adverse action due to such investigations,
then he should notify the employee in advance.
- FCRA does not apply to investigations made by companies or individuals who
are not CRAs.
- Individuals have the right to disagree with inaccurate information that
appears in a credit report. CRAs are required to investigate disputes and
provide a report back to the consumer. If the CRA cannot resolve the dispute,
the individual can add a statement to the credit report. Information which
is inaccurate or unverified must be removed within 30 days of notice of the
- The FCRA offers individuals a private right of action that can be pursued
in federal or state court against CRAs and users of credit reports.
- FCRA at present also allows a limit to the disclosure of data that can lead
to identity theft. Merchants are required to reduce the amount of credit and
debit numbers on electronically printed receipts over a certain time period.
- Consumers also have the right to request that a CRA provide their last five
SSN digits on credit reports.
this is another Federal law in the form of FCRA which protects consumer rights.
It is a strong legal shield that is aimed at protecting the consumers from the
inconvenience caused by Credit Reporting Agencies or CRAs and the harassing creditors.