Credit Bureaus Face Privacy Issue Critics Concerned by Direct Marketing Activity

Article excerpt

IS "junk mail" an invasion of privacy, or a marketing service that most American consumers desire? That is one of the issues underlying congressional efforts to tighten regulation of the companies that track consumers' ability to repay loans.

The credit reporting industry and the Consumers Union, an advocacy group, will face off later this week in testimony before a subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives that is considering proposed changes to the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1971.

The Consumers Union wants Congress to prevent any use of credit-report information not authorized by the individual consumer. This would apply not only to checks by potential grantors of credit and employers, but also to the renting of mailing lists to direct marketers.

The Consumers Union says unsolicited offers for credit cards and similar solicitations violate consumers' privacy, because the offersare based on specific characteristics requested by marketers and culled by computers from credit-bureau databases.

Michelle Meier, the Consumers Union counsel for government affairs, says consumers should have the right to "opt in" on any use of their file. …