Definition

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is United States federal legislation that promotes accuracy, fairness and privacy for data used by consumer reporting agencies. Consumer reporting agencies include credit bureaus and financial agencies -- such as those that sell information about rental history records.

Consumer rights under the FCRA stipulate that:

  • The consumer must be told if information in his file has been used against him. Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny a consumer's application for credit, insurance, or employment must tell the consumer and must give him the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.

  • The consumer has the right to know what is in his file. The consumer may request and obtain all the information about him in the files of a consumer reporting agency after providing proper identification. Consumers are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.

  • The consumer has the right to ask for a credit score. Credit scores are numerical summaries of credit-worthiness based on information from credit bureaus.

  • The consumer has the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information.

The FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information, usually with 30 days. Additionally, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.

The FCRA limits access to a consumer's file by stipulating that a consumer reporting agency may provide information only to people with a valid need. Valid need is defined in the legislation. If a consumer reporting agency violates the FCRA, the consumer has the right to take legal action.

It's up to each state to enforce the FCRA and many states have their own consumer reporting laws. In some cases, the consumer may have more rights under state law. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov.

This was last updated in January 2009
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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