Today, Consumer Reports published a completely false and misleading story on alleged credit report errors. The story is based on a recent Consumer Reports survey that was ill-intentioned, hastily compiled and done so in an unempirical manner. Specifically:
- Survey responses were garnered through a dramatized press release inviting consumers to “hold credit bureaus accountable.”
- The invitation to complete the survey falsely alleged that even non-material errors, like a typo in a consumer’s home address, can lead to a higher interest rate.
- Not only was the survey completed in months, but it questioned a mere 5,800 consumers who make up the Consumer Reports in-house email list; a small fraction of those that are assisted each week by the three CRAs, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
- The survey also mentions the rise in CFPB complaints but fails to recognize the source of the complaints. Credit repair companies flood the CFPB complaint database with full knowledge that the complaints will clog the system rendering it impossible to help those who have real issues and are not simply looking for a fast way to increase their credit score or slow the reporting of accurate but negative data.
- Finally, the study misleads consumers into believing their credit reports are inherently flawed, while making it appear as though CRAs have no incentive or responsibility to correct errors or maintain accuracy.
It is highly disappointing that a group that supposedly promotes consumer interests would mislead consumers.
Let me be clear, CDIA is proud to represent our members who work tirelessly to empower and protect consumers. The unifying factor that our members share is a high standard of accuracy when handling consumers’ data. This standard was not created overnight, it has been developed over decades and refined along the way.
While individual checks are vital, we caution Consumer Reports not to draw too many conclusions from non-empirical surveys of consumers. Further, we do not believe the complaints in the CFPB database are an accurate reflection of consumers’ experiences with credit reporting agencies. The CFPB and FTC should take extensive enforcement action against credit repair companies that will inevitably lead to a reduction in the backlog of the database. These sorts of surveys have limited value and can mislead the public to think their credit file is inaccurate when it is not.
In contrast, the last nationwide empirically sound studies of accuracy conducted by both the FTC and PERC found accuracy rates of 98% or higher and those files that had errors, were often inaccuracies that had little to no effect on a consumer’s ability to get a loan such as the misspelling of their street name or wrongly spelled first name. Highly accurate rates are the product of decades of work in the development of an accurate picture of a consumer’s creditworthiness which empowers them to start a business, provide a home for their family and put their kids through school. Our accuracy rates are even higher today because of the regular innovation of the credit reporting agencies (CRA) and their commitment to excellence.
The three CRAs service over 200 million consumers a year with accurate credit reports and our industry has worked diligently across the financial ecosystem to make sure people have frequent, free access to their credit reports and are able to maintain their financial health as best as possible. At the beginning of the pandemic, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion increased the accessibility for people to check their credit reports weekly for free and have extended that access for an additional year. The CRAs also continue to provide consumer education efforts in support of overall financial health and literacy for all Americans, and as part of that, we strongly encourage consumers to continue to check their credit reports for free every week by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
Accuracy is the bedrock of the credit reporting industry and getting credit reports right for consumers is our most important job. That is reflected by our industry’s 98% accuracy rate, and while there is always room for improvement, using unempirical data and slanted storylines to paint a picture of an inaccurate credit reporting ecosystem is simply a disservice to consumers and inaccurate reporting.
-Francis Creighton, President & CEO, Consumer Data Industry Association