New Jersey law now requires the three national credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to make credit reports available to consumers, upon request, in Spanish and ten additional languages. The new statute (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 56:11-34) went into effect on October 17, 2019.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (15 U.S.C. § 1681 and following) gives consumers the right to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once every 12 months. To get your free reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com, which is the government-authorized website for this purpose. You can also get copies of your reports by submitting a request by phone or mail.
Under federal law, you may also get a free copy of your credit report in specific situations, like if you're a victim of identity theft or if someone turns you down for a loan. And, as part of a court settlement related to a data breach, Equifax agreed to provide six free credit reports each year—for seven years—starting in 2020 to all consumers. Or, you can pay to get more copies of your credit reports.
The credit reporting bureaus have always offered their reports in English. Under the new law in New Jersey, however, the bureaus must make credit reports available in Spanish, and the ten other languages that the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs determines are the first language of a significant number of consumers in the state.
Legislators reasoned that this law was needed to ensure that consumers who speak languages other than English can access and understand their credit reports.
Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute all incomplete and inaccurate information in your credit reports. So, you should check your reports regularly to make sure:
Consumers who can’t read their credit reports because they don’t understand English well have a difficult time catching and correcting errors. And because fixing errors improves the report and associated credit scores, an inability to address mistakes could hurt consumers' job and housing prospects, as well as potentially their immigration status (see below).
The Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade association, that represents Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion sued New Jersey on October 17, 2019, in an attempt to block the new law. In the suit, the Consumer Data Industry Association argues, among other things, that the law violates the First Amendment by compelling speech in other languages and that the FCRA preempts the new state law. The suit asks for an injunction enjoining (prohibiting) the enforcement of the law.
The outcome of this suit could have serious repercussions for immigrants. A new Department of Homeland Security rule, which is currently on hold because of another suit, requires consideration of a person’s credit report and score before that person may enter or remain in the United States, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
We’ll provide updates on these cases as developments arise.
Effective date: October 17, 2019