Many consumers are aware that the big three credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — maintain credit files on us and that we are entitled to a free copy of our report annually.
But what's less known is that there are many other national specialty consumer reporting companies that collect data on us, and they, too, must provide a free report annually to us. These companies track such things as our employment, medical payments, tenant history and insurance claims. Creditors, landlords, employers and others review reports when making decision about us.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has reviewed phone listings and websites of some of these companies to make sure they comply with the law that requires consumers to have easy access to a free annual report. The CFPB also tried to request reports.
The CFPB said last week it found that some companies didn't list toll-free numbers as required or that they didn't have a streamlined process for consumers to request their report.
The federal agency warned several companies by letter that they may be in violation of the law.
The CFPB says there are hundreds of reporting companies in the country. It has posted the names of 40 on its website. Not all must provide a free annual report, but they do at least have to provide a report for a reasonable price — nor more than $11.50 right now — to consumers.
All of this is important because if a report contains errors, you could end up paying more for credit or being denied an apartment or job.
Perhaps the next thing the CFPB will tackle is just how easy it is for consumers to fix errors. Difficulty getting reporting agencies to correct mistakes has been a long-standing complaint.