When the Credit Bureau Won't Fix Your Credit Report Error
When you find an error on your credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to clear up that error by disputing with the bureau that provided the report. You can dispute credit report errors via phone, online, or by mail. Disputing by mail gives you a paper trail that will come in handy if you need to later sue the credit bureau.
Once the bureau receives your dispute, they’re required to investigate your dispute and remove the error from your credit report if it is determined that the information being disputed is indeed inaccurate.
Unfortunately, the dispute process doesn’t always work, even when the information you’ve disputed is a real error. According to a study released by the Federal Trade Commission in January 2015, 121 of 1001 survey participants had an unresolved dispute with a credit bureau. Thirty-one percent (31%) of those with an unresolved dispute simply accepted the credit bureau’s decision and accepted the original information as correct. However, close to 70% of those believed the disputed information was inaccurate.
Before this FTC study, in 2012, the Columbus Dispatch analyzed 30,000 credit report-related complaints to the FTC and 24 state Attorney General and found that more than half complaints were from people who couldn’t get the credit bureaus to fix their errors, even with proof and when the errors seemed glaringly obvious.
Here’s what you can do if the credit bureau doesn’t fix your credit report errors even after you’ve disputed.
Dispute it again
But provide some new information. If you keep disputing the same error without providing any new information, the credit bureau may determine that your dispute is frivolous. By law, the credit bureau doesn’t have to investigate any disputes it determines is frivolous. However, if the credit bureau determines your dispute is frivolous, it does have to notify you in writing within five business days, give reasons for their decision, and let you know what information is required to investigate the disputed information.
Dispute it with the business that provided the information
Often, the credit bureaus don’t fix errors because the creditor or debt collector providing the information has the error within their records. You can dispute the information with the creditor or debt collector that provided the inaccurate information to the credit bureau using the same dispute process. This time bypass the credit bureau and send your dispute and proof to the information provider. Escalate your dispute within the company – to the CEO if you have to – if you’re not getting results.
If the creditor does confirm that the information is inaccurate, they’re required to update the credit bureau with the correct information.
There are generally three places you can complain about unresolved credit bureaus disputes: your state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies can’t necessarily force the credit bureau or the creditor to update your individual account, but the credit bureau may be motivated to fix your credit report after knowing you’ve called in the big guns. And, with enough complaints, these agencies may file a lawsuit against a credit bureau or creditor and they can propose changes to legislation that will make it easier for all consumers to get credit report disputes resolved.
Sue the credit bureau
You have the right to sue a credit bureau that violates any of your rights under the FCRA, including continuing to report inaccurate information. In 2013, an Oregon woman won an $18.4 million lawsuit against Equifax when they failed to correct her credit report after she sent eight disputes over two years. Keep all the evidence of your disputes with the credit bureau (and the creditors), the credit bureau (and creditor) responses, and notes of any phone calls you make regarding the dispute. Contact an attorney if you believe you have a strong case against the credit bureau.
Let it go
As much as you want your credit report to be correct – and it’s your right to have an accurate credit report – it takes time and effort to continue submitting disputes. If the error isn’t affecting your credit score, not causing you to be denied for credit cards or loans, or is scheduled to fall off your credit report soon, it may not be worth it to continue to pursue the error. Continue to monitor your credit report for future errors and be sure to dispute those if they're serious.