The path to resolving credit disputes isn’t always smooth. Two-thirds of our survey respondents who found errors attempted to fix them. More than half of them told us they ran into challenges, including being ignored, rejected, or subjected to outright lies.
Leonard Bennett, a consumer-law attorney in Newport News, Va., says that he’s not surprised. “Often, the agencies just have their computers verify that previously reported information is still being reported,” he says. “No humans are involved.”
Stuart K. Pratt, president and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group, says that member companies have systems to ensure that disputes entered into their databases are properly described and that those disputes get quickly into the hands of lenders, where the discrepancies may have originated.
“Our systems also require lenders to review consumer-submitted credit-report disputes” so that they get proper attention, Pratt maintains.
Last May Mississippi became the first state to sue a credit bureau for alleged violations of state and federal law. Among the charges—alleged by the state’s attorney general, Jim Hood—are that Experian mixed the identities of consumers, reported as late or delinquent accounts that were paid on time or settled in full, failed to update its records of liens or judgments that were removed or resolved, and reported living people as dead.
Experian’s response is that the lawsuit is unsupported by facts and evidence, and that it will vigorously defend itself.
Consumers are also taking action on their own. In July 2013 Julie Miller, a 58-year-old nurse in Marion County, Ore., won a record verdict of $18.4 million in punitive damages against Equifax. In her suit, Miller contended that the company ignored her pleas to correct a mixed-file problem that corrupted her credit file with numerous collections accounts belonging to someone else. (Last January punitive and compensatory damages were reduced to $1.8 million.)
“She didn’t want to sue anybody,” says Michael Baxter, one of the attorneys who represented Miller. “She just wanted to get her credit clean.”