November 01, 2012

The FCRA: A Double-Edged Sword for Consumer Data Sellers

James A. Francis

It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) out of concern for the growing use and potential misuse of consumer credit history, but its relevance as a consumer privacy statute has never been greater.

Given the electronic age in which we live, it should come as little surprise that the consumer data and reporting industry is larger and more robust than ever. The “Big Three” alone—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian—issue more than 3 billion consumer reports a year and maintain files on 200 million Americans. But that is just a segment of the industry. A whole host of other companies known as specialty consumer reporting agencies, including the Big Three themselves, now sell consumer information relating to employment background checks, medical records and payments, insurance claim history and underwriting, and tenant rental history.

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