Tuesday, June 19, 2007

House financial services meeting

The house financial services committee met today to discuss consumer rights to dispute information on credit reports. Unfortunately I missed a good portion of the beginning, but was able to see the live webcast of some of it. Nothing came of it, but it was interesting to hear the different sides of the issue. Most interesting was that some members of the panel apparently did not believe consumers should have too many rights to dispute information, and that said information should be assumed to be correct as a natural balance of the credit system.

One question they asked: why is there not better verification processes that actually force creditors to produced documentation with consumer signatures instead of simply transmitting coded verifications or other creditor documents? An example is individuals added as "authorized users" to cards who do not actually bear the responsibility of repayment.

The CRAs (credit reporting agencies) essentially take the credit issuer's word for granted, with little recourse for the consumer. This kind of loose verification is where the accuracy of the system breaks down.

Debt buyers in particular have a vested interest in leaving incorrect information. They purchase debt in bulk, often with incorrect information or debts that should otherwise have been removed from collection efforts (such as with bankruptcy). Debt buyers fall under the jurisdiction of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) yet there are no apparent protections against the common re-aging of debts (changing the date of the debt so it stays fresh on the report) or of pursuing debts that are a result of identity theft.

Greater rights are needed for consumers to defend themselves in court, because those who are sued rarely ever win. Private lawyers have no chance against the high paid CRA lawyers. Further, the court is not permitted to force the CRA to change the information with a court order.

If anyone has any further insight into the meeting, please post a link or a comment.

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