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In an effort to better help Americans ensure that all the information listed on their credit reports is accurate, the federal consumer watchdog agency recently released new guidelines for evaluating companies that handle this type of sensitive data.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently set out new guidelines for its employees who are working to guarantee that companies who deal with borrowers' credit reporting are doing all they can to comply with governmental regulation, according to its latest Examination Procedures for Credit Reporting Agencies. Essentially, these new rules will allow evaluators to better determine whether companies are following all the requirements put in place for them by the CFPB and other federal agencies, and that consumers are getting the most accurate information possible on their credit reports and other related documents.

In particular, the document lays out the ways for inspectors to assess "reasonable procedures" credit reporting companies use to ensure that the data they receive from third parties is accurate and high-quality, the document said. In addition, there must also be safeguards in place for these companies to make sure no duplicate information is listed on anyone's report, as well as protocols to detect fraud.

Further, the document also spells out how inspectors can make sure current military members who applied for active duty alerts will be protected from being hit with identity theft or fraud as well, the report said. Companies will also have to have procedures in place to notify potential victims of these concerning entries, not less than 90 days from the date on which they placed the initial request for fraud alerts. These agencies will also have to have trained employees on hand to work with consumers who may have questions about the data contained on their credit reports, and explain anything that may be unclear to them.

Finally, major credit bureaus must also have strategies for providing consumers with free copies of various credit-related documents including reports and scores when applicable, the report said. For instance, they will need to issue free annual credit reports within 15 days of receiving a request, and in the case of documents guaranteed to consumers after they receive notification of an adverse action taken against them, the requirement is a maximum of 60 days. Further, the companies will also have to have procedures in place so that consumers can request free documents with relative ease, either through their website, by mail, or via a toll-free hotline.

It should be noted that these rules apply only to what are defined as "larger participants" in the industry. And while these companies make up a small percentage of the total number of participants in the credit reporting industry, they also do the vast majority of business in it; while just 30 of 400 companies fall within the category, those few do more than 94 percent of all credit reporting nationwide.