A federal court awarded a woman in Oregon $18.6 million after she spent two years trying to get a credit reporting company to fix major mistakes on her credit report to no avail. It is one of the largest awarded to a consumer bringing a case against a major credit bureau. The judgement is likely to be appealed.
Julie Miller contacted Equifax eight times between 2009 and 2011 to correct significant inaccuracies, which included the wrong accounts, incorrect collection attempts, the wrong Social Security number, and the wrong birthday. She first discovered the errors when a bank denied her credit in 2009, and she subsequently alerted Equifax and filled out forms from the agency to update her information. The information on her account was improperly placed in her record from another Julie Miller, and the lawsuit alleged that in at least one case her private details were sent to companies looking for the other woman. Yet Equifax failed to fix any of those mistakes.
In response to ThinkProgress’s request for comment, Equifax stated, “We are very disappointed in the jury verdict and we are exploring our options.”
Miller’s case is not necessarily unique. While studies that try to estimate how many reports contain errors found anywhere from 3 to 25 percent, an industry-sponsored study found them in nearly 20 percent. A recent study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the number at 21 percent, 5 percent of which could harm a consumer’s prospect of getting a loan.
Yet attempts to resolve inaccuracies often go no where. Just one in five consumers got an error corrected by a credit reporting agency after it was disputed, the FTC study found.
The methodologies are just as opaque as the process of getting errors corrected. The way scores are calculated is a trade secret, although they usually depend on how much credit people use, whether they pay on time, and whether or not they use credit cards.
The major credit reporting bureaus went without little oversight until they came under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.