CFPB Advises Consumer Reporting Agencies On Streamlined Process For Free Annual Consumer Reports

On November 29, 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") issued a bulletin ("Bulletin") warning that Nationwide Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies ("NSCRA") who are not compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act's ("FCRA") Regulation V must "take immediate steps to comply."1 In particular, the Bulletin stresses the importance placed by the CFPB on the free annual credit report and reminds NSCRA's regarding their compliance obligation under Section 1022.137 of Regulation V requiring a "streamlined process for requesting annual file disclosures from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies."2

Background

The FCRA "sets standards for the collection, communication, and use of information bearing on a consumer's creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living."3 The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ("Dodd-Frank") made substantive amendments to the FCRA and also transferred rulemaking authority from several federal agencies – the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Trade Commission, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Office of Thrift Supervision – to the CFPB.4 The CFPB is authorized to issue regulations as "necessary or appropriate to administer and carry out the purposes and objectives of [the FCRA], and to prevent evasions thereof or to facilitate compliance therewith."5 Pursuant to this authority, the CFPB published for comment an interim final rule in December 2011 establishing a new Regulation V implementing the FCRA.6 The rule did not impose any new substantive obligations on persons subject to the existing FCRA regulations.7

The CFPB's Admonition

An NSCRA is a "consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis relating to (1) medical records or payments; (2) residential or tenant history; (3) check writing history; (4) employment history; or (5) insurance claims."8 In issuing the Bulletin, the CFPB noted, "It has come to the attention of the CFPB that some NSCRAs may not have established the required streamlined process for consumers to request copies of their annual file disclosures."9 The Bulletin is intended "to remind the NSCRAs of their obligation to comply with the streamlined process requirement," which the agency views as "an important consumer...

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