Massachusetts, 30 other states force changes in credit reports


This ran in the Boston Globe

By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three nationwide credit reporting agencies have agreed to fix disputed information on credit reports more quickly, wait longer before adding potentially damaging information on medical debt, and scrutinize certain data furnished by outside entities, according to a multistate settlement announced Wednesday.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine outlined the pact that Equifax, Experian, and Trans- Union struck with attorneys general in 31 states, including Massachusetts. It calls for credit bureaus to pay a combined $6 million to participating states and to adjust a host of business practices over three years.

“Credit reports affect countless aspects of day-to-day life, from a person’s ability to obtain a mortgage and buy a house to a job hunter’s success in finding employment,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said. “This settlement will improve the accuracy of those reports and provides important protections to consumers.”

The states began investigating after consumers complained that the agencies were not following proper dispute procedures and tried to sell them credit-monitoring services when they complained about the accuracy of their report. A spokeswoman for Healey said the attorney general’s office had received about 300 complaints about credit ratings agencies over the past five years.

The three companies will pay $160,000 to Massachusetts as part of the settlement. The money will be used for litigation costs and consumer protection programs, court documents say, while the credit agencies did not admit fault.

‘‘It’s a good day for all consumers in the United States,’’ said Ohio’s DeWine, a Republican. He spearheaded the investigation that led to the deal after reading a 2012 investigation by The (Columbus) Dispatch newspaper about consumers denied car loans, mortgages, and jobs because of mistakes.

The agreement requires the agencies to:

 Maintain information about problems with entities that furnish data — such as collection agencies, department stores, or banks — and make that information available so patterns can be spotted.

 Use a better, more detailed system to share data with those so-called furnishers.

 Set up a more intensive process for complicated disputes, such as those involving identity theft, fraud, or mixed files in which two people’s identities have been confused.

 Educate consumers about how they can dispute the outcome of an investigation.

Globe correspondent 

Jack Newsham contributed 
to this report.

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