Regulate Credit Agencies Now

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

New Orleans  Believe it or not, Equifax, one of the three mega-data collecting credit agencies in the United States in their incredible laxness in handling the vital personal data of Americans allowed 143 million of them to hacked over a two-month period. They said nothing, and did just about nothing until disclosing the information.

They did this with impunity, because remember that none of us ever ask any of these companies to compile these reports on us. They do so without our permission and with little accountability and often with frequent errors that harm people and their credit as a service to businesses that want to decide whether to give us credit and then do so arbitrarily.

The businesses pay a little, but we pay a lot. Credit reports can determine whether we can buy a house or a car, get a credit card or maintain a bank account, all of which are critical to citizen wealth and well-being, and often to simply being able to get along in the modern economy. We pay because their mistakes and ratings often determine the exact level of interest we are afforded in making a purchase, which in the case of a house or car can mean thousands of dollars to families.

Do they care? Not from what can be determined from the available evidence. Legislators and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau have forced them to now offer a free credit report from each of the agencies once annually, largely so we can correct their sloppy mess. Their disregard for consumers and citizens is exemplified by Equifax’s handling of their breach. They are charging people to put a freeze on their accounts which may have been part of the hack. Remember that you never asked your info to be collected by them and certainly not handled irresponsibly, and now they want to profit from their mistakes. Other reports indicate that they are assigning auto-algorithms that are also easily hacked and virtually transparent.

These problems aren’t new, and for low-and-moderate income families are constant obstacles. The companies make no effort to collect or catalog information that might be helpful. Consistent rental or lease payments for example are not factored, even when these are critical credit indicators. It’s now common that almost any credit card company reports to the credit companies, but it is still the case where often a lower income family has to apply for a credit card just to prove that they pay, even if there are no problems with their payment histories, just to make it easier for Equifax, TransAmerica and the like to make money exploiting our information.

Surely this is an area where Congress is unwilling to be bought by the companies and their lobbyists and might finally force them to get their game together for everyone, issue free credit reports to one and all, make prompt corrections, and face penalties for not doing right on any of these issues.