Equifax to Pay $250,000 to Settle Consumer Credit Charges
WASHINGTON - Equifax Credit Information Services has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company's blocked-call rate and hold times violated provisions of an FTC consent decree that settled a 2000 lawsuit for the same violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The lawsuit charged that Equifax didn't have sufficient personnel available to answer the toll-free number provided on consumers' credit reports for certain periods in 2001. To provide consumers with the ability to more easily resolve inaccuracies in their credit reports, Congress in 1996 amended the FCRA to require the three major credit bureaus to provide consumers who receive a copy of the credit report with a toll-free telephone number and access to credit bureau personnel during normal business hours. In January 2000, the three credit bureaus paid a total of $2.5 million to settle charges that each of them had violated this provision. According to the FTC's complaints, the credit bureaus blocked calls from more than a million consumers who wanted to discuss the contents of and possible errors in their credit report. The FTC also alleged the credit bureaus kept some consumers on hold for unreasonably long periods of time.