Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Credit-Reporting Reform Bill Loses Key Advocate

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Credit-Reporting Reform Bill Loses Key Advocate

Article excerpt

For four years, Michelle Meier pushed for legislation to tighten the rules in the credit-reporting industry, which has been accused of ruining reputations by failing to correct false and misleading information in some consumer credit files. But when the U.S. House of Representatives Banking Committee recently passed a bill designed to do just that, Meier did a reversal. She vowed to fight the bill rather than support it.

Meier and Consumers Union, the powerful Washington, D.C., consumer group that she represents, say that the bill has changed so drastically as a result of lobbying by banking and credit groups that it's "worse than nothing." The bill passed the House Banking Committee recently. Next it goes for a vote in the full House of Representatives.

"Instead of being an improvement, it is a major step backward," Meier said.

Notably, getting this legislation _ called the Consumer Reporting Reform Act of 1994, or House Resolution 1015 _ passed into law was previously one of Consumers Union's top priorities for 1994. And even Meier acknowledges that it would do some positive things.

Namely, it would allow consumers to get one free copy of their credit report each year. Most credit bureaus now charge about $8. TRW is the exception. It provides any consumer who requests it one copy of his or her credit report free each year. But if you've recently been turned down for credit because of negative information in your file, all credit-reporting companies are required to provide you with a free copy.

Employers, who occasionally use credit reports in hiring decisions, would not be able to order an applicant's credit history without getting the applicant's advance permission.

The bill would also set a clear time frame on getting credit-reporting errors corrected. Current law said that inaccurate information must be reinvestigated and corrected in a "reasonable" period of time. The proposed law would require that corrections be made within 30 days.

But in other ways, the bill would seriously undermine some current consumer rights.

For instance, the bill would make it easier for direct marketers to get information from your credit file and use it to sell their products and services. …

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