The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is an important government regulation that applies to credit agencies and secures certain rights for American consumers. Although you may have heard of the FCRA in the past, you might not know whether it applies directly to you or if it applies to organizations other than the three big credit bureaus.
Let’s take a closer look at what the FCRA means, how it works, and what organizations it applies to.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a guiding series of regulations that affect consumers and credit bureaus alike. Broadly speaking, the FCRA states that:
The FCRA is highly important. It ensures that consumers can’t be harmed by unfair or inaccurate credit information and gives credit bureaus the guidelines they need to do their jobs correctly.
Notably, the credit bureaus are not federal organizations, though they are often thought of as government-run by consumers. They’re for-profit companies, so the FCRA is important for keeping them in line and preventing them from mishandling consumer credit info.
No, the FCRA does not only apply to the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). It actually applies to any organization that deals with consumer credit information. Here are some examples.
Credit furnishers are businesses that provide credit information to the credit bureaus. These can include utility companies, retailers, and any other organization that reports credit info of some kind.
Say that you sign up for utilities in a new city after moving. The utility company you use is a credit furnisher since it bills you every month. If you are late with your utility payments, the utility company will tell the credit bureaus this information.
Since credit furnishers collect and sell information to credit agencies, they're subject to the guidelines and limitations of the FCRA.
Employers are also affected by the FCRA and must listen to its regulations. Many employers perform background checks on prospective employees. If they use your credit information, they are beholden to the FCRA and its regulations.
Any organization that uses credit information in any capacity is subject to the FCRA, such as creditors or collection agencies.
In fact, collection agencies are the subjects of a lot of the rules and restrictions outlined in the FCRA. For example, collectors are legally not allowed to harass debtors under any circumstances, and they are not allowed to contact debtors for certain debts. Furthermore, collection agencies aren’t allowed to contact debtors after certain hours.
Bottom line: if an organization or group uses credit information, it must obey the FCRA. If an organization breaches the rules of the FCRA, it could be liable for legal action, such as a lawsuit.
A credit or data furnisher is any company that collects and sells credit information to the credit bureaus. Companies do this to make a profit, especially if they already have consumer payment information because of their business models.
For instance, imagine a retailer that has a loyalty program. Customers who join a loyalty program can purchase certain items on a payment plan (e.g., they purchase a new sofa for $500 and agree to pay $50 for 10 months until it is paid off). A customer makes a purchase with the payment plan, then either makes the payments on time or is late.
That retailer can give the information to the credit bureaus. Any other business that has payment plans or that requires consumers to make regular payments/maintain a money account can act as a data or credit furnisher.
The FCRA certainly applies to the big credit bureaus in addition to credit furnishers and similar organizations. However, you also can’t forget that the FCRA applies to you!
That’s right. The FCRA enshrines plenty of important rights for consumers, including:
For more information about your rights or assistance filing a lawsuit, don’t hesitate to contact Fair Credit today.
The FCRA applies not just to the credit bureaus, but also any other organization that collects, sells, and/or uses credit information about consumers. That includes credit furnishers, employers, and other organizations. Plus, don't forget that the FCRA enshrines certain rights for you as a consumer. For more information, contact Fair Credit today.