What Is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
Get the basics on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
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The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that governs how a credit reporting agency (CRA) handles your credit information. It is designed to protect the integrity and privacy of your credit information. The FCRA requires credit reporting agencies--and the entities that report your credit information to them and others--to ensure that your information is fair and accurate, and kept private. The FCRA protects your right to access and correct any inaccuracies in your credit report and provides you with remedies if a credit reporting agency or information furnisher violates your rights.
For articles on your credit report, credit score, cleaning up your credit report, and more, see Nolo's Credit Repair topic area.
Who/What is a CRA?
A CRA is any entity that collects and furnishes credit information about you. A common type of CRA is a credit bureau, such as Transunion, Equifax or Experian. A CRA also includes a company or person who collects and sells your credit information (often in the form of background checks) to landlords, employers, or anyone else who makes a credit decision about you.
Obligations of a CRA
A CRA is obligated to:
upon your request, provide you with the information it has on file about you (called your “file disclosure”), often for free (to learn how to get your credit report, see Credit Reports & Credit Scores)
provide you with your credit score upon your request (you'll most likely have to pay a fee; see Credit Reports & Credit Scores )
investigate disputed credit information in your file (there are a few exceptions to this rule; see When the CRA Does Not Have to Investigate Your Complaint.)
correct or delete any inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information within 30 days of the receiving notice of your dispute (for more on this, see How to Correct Errors on Your Credit Report)
refrain from reporting old credit information, usually more than seven to ten years old (see How Long Does Negative Information Stay on Your Credit Report)
limit disclosure of your credit file to third parties who have a “valid need” (such as a creditor, landlord, or employer), and
withhold disclosure of your credit information to employers unless you consent.
Who/What is an Information Supplier?
An “information supplier” is any entity that submits your credit information to a CRA. Usually, that means your creditor. But it could also mean any other third party that you have even a loose credit relationship with, such as a government entity to whom you owe taxes, costs, or fines.
Obligations of an Information Supplier
Under the FCRA, your creditor and any other information supplier:
must not report to a CRA any information about you that it knows -- has “reasonable cause” to know -- is inaccurate
has a duty to promptly update and correct any inaccurate information that it previously supplied to the CRA
must tell you about any negative credit information it reports to a CRA within 30 days
must notify the CRA when you voluntarily close an account with it, and
must maintain a “reasonable procedure” to respond to identity theft notices by a CRA, and refrain from reporting information about an account that you previously reported was the result of identity theft.
If you dispute the inaccurate information with your creditor, in writing, it cannot continue to report the wrong information to the CRA until it investigates. It must also notify the CRA of your dispute.
To learn more about information supplier's duties, see How to Dispute Credit Report Items With the Creditor.
Users of Credit Information
In addition to CRAs and your creditors, anyone who uses your credit information for employment, credit, or insurance purposes is covered by the FCRA. They must:
notify you if they turn you down based on what they found in your credit report, and
identify the CRA or information supplier who provided the report.
If any of these three types of entities (CRA, information supplier, or user) violates the rules in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be able to sue them in state or federal court for damages. If you are in the military, you might have additional protections and remedies. Your state's laws may also offer additional relief and remedies. For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission's section on the FCRA at www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcrajump.shtm.