In an increasingly digital world, it can often feel like numbers define us. Whether your social security number, your phone number, or your credit score, the cold truth is that your identity is often boiled down to a single number. In the financial world, your credit score traditionally defines your eligibility for credit and the cost of credit, but the uses of credit scores have expanded to include premiums for insurance, employment eligibility, and other non-financial determinations. Particularly in tough financial times, small fluctuations in credit scores can have large impacts on consumers’ access to affordable credit.
As furnishers and credit reporting agencies increasingly send information to each other electronically and use electronic forms for error resolution, the human element of the consumer can get lost in the translation. Credit reporting agencies investigate consumer disputes electronically by using codes to signify complicated and nuanced challenges to errors on credit reports without paying much attention to the specific claims made by consumers. In a system dominated by cold numbers, how can consumers defend their reputations and hold furnishers responsible for errors on their credit reports?
This article addresses whether or not consumers can bring state claims against data furnishers and how the system can be reformed to create a more fair and efficient method of resolving credit report inaccuracies. First, this article explains the current regulation of the credit reporting market and the competing preemption provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Second, using recent case law, this article analyzes the different methods that courts use to reconcile the competing provisions of FCRA. Third, this article argues for adoption of a more inclusive standard, the recklessness standard, for state claims brought by consumers, particularly because of the industry’s movement towards electronic dispute resolution systems. Finally, this article makes recommendations to clarify preemption under the FCRA and improve the dispute process for consumers, including possible actions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and federal legislation.