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Travel Buddy
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The New York Times

By
Tara Siegel-Bernard

"Even after sending more than 13 letters to Equifax over the course of two years, Julie Miller could not get the big credit bureau to remove a host of errors that it inserted into her credit report. [...] So she tried suing. That worked. A jury in Federal District Court in Portland, Ore., last week awarded her a whopping $18.4 million in punitive damages, which, according to consumer lawyers, is the largest individual case on record. [...]

Will Ms. Miller’s award have any lasting effect on the industry? Mr. Bennett, the consumer lawyer, is one of the optimists. “This case will change the calculus,” he said. “If they have to pay $2.5 million every time one of these folks gets to court, they might have to reconsider their procedures.”

It’s more likely, though, that the , which began overseeing the large credit bureaus last September, will have more impact. It has to perform on-site examinations, check records and examine how disputes are handled. Consumer advocates have long suggested that the credit agencies tighten up the way they match up data with consumers reports and strengthen the dispute process.

“Big punitive penalties may help force the bureaus to upgrade their 20th-century algorithms and incompetent dispute reinvestigation processes,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “But C.F.P.B.’s authority to supervise the big credit bureaus is one of the most significant powers Congress gave it.”

(LINK TO ON CREDIT REPORT ERRORS AND FIXING YOUR CREDIT REPORT)

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