On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took aim at the three major U.S. credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — for their historical propensity for errors about consumers’ loan-borrowing habits or other personal data.
He reminded his audience of a Federal Trade Commission report that found at least one material error in more than 25 percent of credit reports the agency reviewed, with 5 percent of reports containing errors resulting in a credit score swing of at least 25 points. (See video below.)
Putting it into context, that 5 percent translated into 10 million Americans, equivalent to the entire population of Sweden, says Oliver.
Your credit history is vital, Oliver says, and can keep you from getting a loan, a job, an apartment or an insurance policy. He noted that nearly half of employers are now using credit reports as part of the hiring process (but most seek permission from the prospective hire before pulling a credit profile.)
Errors on credit reports have been a problem for decades, as Oliver demonstrates by airing news clips from as far back as the 1980s. However, the credit-reporting industry seems “uncomfortably complacent” with the rate of errors, Oliver said. He showed a press release put out by the Consumer Data Industry Association that boasts 95 percent of people are unaffected by errors. Remember, that’s 10 million people.
“They’re basically saying, ‘Great news everyone! We only f*cked up a group equivalent to the entire population of Sweden,” said Oliver.
To test the industry’s tolerance for that margin of error, Last Week Tonight created a three really bad companies offering services so distasteful that we’ll skip the descriptions. And, by the way, the trio of companies are completely unrelated to the credit industry — that just happen to have names that are “problematically similar” to the three major bureaus: They concocted companies are Equifacks, Experianne and TramsOnion.
“It would clearly be an absolute disaster for the credit agencies if they were mistaken for any of these companies,” said Oliver. “But don’t worry, I’m sure that won’t happen… 95% of the time.”