Companies that supply information to consumer reporting companies, including the big three credit bureaus, have been given a not-so-friendly warning by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The CFPB has released a bulletin stressing that these companies, called furnishers, are responsible for investigating consumer disputes forwarded by the consumer reporting companies. Furnishers are also responsible for reviewing all relevant information provided with the disputes, including documents submitted by consumers.
And they are required to do this according to federal law.
This disputes, which can include requests to correct errorneous late-payment histories and loan defaults, are vital because unaddressed mistakes can derail a mortgage, auto loan or other type of financing application.
“Credit reports play a critical role in the lives of consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Given the importance of these reports, consumers need to know that their documents are being reviewed when they dispute what they believe is a mistake on a report. Today’s bulletin helps ensure that the right people will be doing just that.”
Consumers can file a dispute with a consumer reporting company about an item on their credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com.
The consumer reporting company ordinarily must inform the furnisher that the consumer has filed a dispute. The consumer reporting company is also required to forward all relevant information it has about the dispute to the furnisher. Once the furnisher receives the information, it must review it, conduct an investigation, and respond to the consumer reporting company.
An electronic system, known as “e-OSCAR,” is used by the three largest nationwide consumer reporting companies to send information relating to consumer disputes to furnishers.
In a December 2012 report, the CFPB highlighted the fact that the “e-OSCAR” system did not provide a means for credit reporting companies to forward to furnishers any documents submitted by consumers.
The CFPB reported last week that it has been working to ensure that the dispute system was improved.
The “e-OSCAR” system has been upgraded so that the three companies can now send furnishers any relevant dispute documents mailed in by consumers.
The CFPB said it “is continuing to work to see that the capacity of the system is expanded further in the near future.”
The bulletin details the Bureau’s expectations of how furnishers should comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, particularly when it comes to investigations of consumer disputes they receive from consumer reporting companies.
The CFPB expects each furnisher to fulfill its legal obligations by:
- Receiving information and investigating disputes: When a consumer files a dispute about a credit report item, companies need to be able to receive information about the dispute and must investigate the consumer’s concerns.
- Providing investigation results: Furnishers must report the results of the investigation to the consumer reporting company that sent the dispute originally.
- Correcting inaccurate information: Furnishers are required to report the results of the investigation to nationwide consumer reporting companies if those companies may have received inaccurate or incomplete credit information. Furnishers also have to modify, delete, or permanently block disputed information that is incomplete, inaccurate, or cannot be verified.
If the CFPB determines that a furnisher has engaged in any acts or practices that violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act or other federal consumer financial laws, the agency said it will take appropriate supervisory and enforcement actions to address violations and seek all appropriate corrective measures, possibly including restitution to harmed consumers.