By Nicole D. Prysby, J.D.
A consumer failed to state a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act when she alleged that credit reporting agency Experian could not provide reports using the legal name "Maria E" because its database did not support one-character last names, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. She provided no evidence that an inaccurate report was supplied to a creditor and a "no report" communication to a creditor is not actionable under the FCRA. Therefore, summary judgment for Experian was granted (Maria E v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., February 27, 2018, Hood, J.).
Background. The consumer brought an FCRA action against Experian after becoming frustrated with the credit reporting agency’s inability to provide credit reports under her legal name. Experian’s credit reporting system does not store completed reports, but assembles a report at the time of an inquiry, using the identifying information provided by the party requesting the report. That identifying information must include a minimum of two characters for a consumer’s last name. The consumer had various names over the years (all with surnames of more than two characters) but in 1992 changed her legal name to "Maria E." and changed it again to "Maria E" in 2016. In 2008, she contacted Experian to dispute the lack of reporting using her legal name and Experian informed her that its database did not support the use of a single name or a single character for a last name.
In 2016, the consumer was unable to obtain a home loan, because the bank could not pull a current credit report for her under her legal name from Experian (although it could get a report with older credit information, using one of the consumer’s former names). The consumer again contacted Experian and was again told that its database did not support the use of a single character last name.
No FCRA violation. The FCRA creates a private right of action when a consumer reporting agency prepares a report, if it fails to follow reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy. Experian argued that the consumer could not show an FCRA violation because she cannot simultaneously claim that no report is available and also claim that Experian actually "prepared" or "provided" a consumer report for a third party which triggered its obligation to follow reasonable procedures.
In other words, a "no report" communication is not a report. The consumer asserted that in each case, there was some report issued to the creditor, but she did not provide any reports or evidence of the communications. Evidence that inquiries were made to Experian was not sufficient to show that Experian actually provided a report. The consumer also argued that it was an FCRA violation for Experian to tell creditors that to obtain information on Marie E, they needed to use a false name (i.e., one of her former names). But the mere fact that Experian uses a database requiring at least two characters for a last name is insufficient to show that it is providing an inaccurate credit report. Therefore, the consumer failed to present evidence supporting her claim of an inaccurate report.
The court found, for similar reasons that the consumer’s claim based on a dispute under the FCRA should fail. The FCRA does not state how credit reporting agencies must maintain information and ensure accuracy. Therefore, that decision is left up to the agency. Even if the existing system produces inaccurate reporting, a consumer cannot force a credit reporting agency to subscribe to a particular organizational principle or database structure.
The case is No. 5:17-cv-00098-JMH-REW.
Attorneys: Justin M. Baxter (Baxter & Baxter, LLP) for Maria E. Adam W. Wiers (Jones Day) for Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Margaret Jane Brannon (Jackson Kelly PLLC) for Experian Marketing Solutions and Experian Marketing.
Companies: Experian Information Solutions, Inc.; Experian Marketing Solutions; Experian Marketing
MainStory: TopStory FairCreditReporting KentuckyNews
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