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This page highlights efforts of Consumers Union to improve the marketplace

Consumer Reports magazine: January 2013

The issue: The credit score you can see may be different from the one your lender uses.

 

Our take: Your three-digit credit score has a big impact on your finances. It helps lenders decide whether to lend you money and on what terms. When you request your score from a credit bureau, you expect it to be the same one that lenders use. Too often, that’s not the case.

 

A study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau compared credit scores sold to consumers with those sold to creditors. It found about one in five consumers would be likely to receive a meaningfully different score from the one sent to a lender. That means you’d be likely to qualify for different credit offers—it could be better or worse—than you would expect to get based on the score you bought.

 

That’s not fair to consumers, who need a reliable score to shop around for credit and get the best deals. Consumers Union also believes that your credit score should be yours for no charge when you request a free credit report. So we’re calling on the industry to take some of the mystery out of credit scores and make them more consistent, reliable, and available to consumers.

‘Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill.’—U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

 

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Bank of America, accusing it of fraud for causing taxpayers more than $1 billion in losses from selling bad mortgage loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

That’s the number of kids who have ingested small, high-powered magnets in the past 10 years—almost half in the past year, according to a survey by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Eighty percent needed endoscopic or surgical intervention. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Consumers Union want a ban on the sale of the magnets. They’re used in toys for ages 14 and older, but younger children are all too tempted by them.

The win: Cell-phone customers are now getting free alerts to avoid “bill shock.”


What's in it for you:
Some 20 percent of cell customers we surveyed in 2011 had been jolted by an unexpected charge on a wireless bill during the previous year. Companies weren’t giving them good tools to keep tabs on their plan limits. In 2011, AT&T, Verizon, and other carriers agreed to send free alerts to customers before and after they faced additional charges for data, text, voice, or international roaming.


October was the deadline for companies to send at least two of the four alerts, and we’re pleased that all participating companies are complying, according to the Federal Communications Commission. They seem to be on track to provide all four alerts by April. The FCC singled out Consumers Union for highlighting this problem and helping find a solution, and reaffirmed that, if companies fall short in upholding this voluntary agreement, it would consider imposing regulations to require these notifications. 

Editor's Note: Consumers Union is the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports.
   

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