Federal Trade Commission Issues Staff Report on Fair Credit Reporting Act Controlling Employment Background Checks

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a staff report that compiles and updates the agency’s guidance on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the 1970 law designed to protect the privacy of credit report information and ensure that the information supplied by credit reporting agencies (CRAs) is as accurate as possible. The July 2011 report, “Forty Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act: An FTC Staff Report and Summary of Interpretations,” provides a brief overview of the FTC’s role in enforcing and interpreting the FCRA, includes a section-by-section summary of the agency’s interpretations of the Act, and also withdraws the agency’s 1990 Commentary on the FCRA, which has become partially obsolete since it was issued 21 years ago.

“This new FTC staff report is invaluable to background screening firms and employers, as well as human resources and security professions that need to deal with the Fair Credit Reporting Act in order to ensure legally complaint background checks,” says Attorney Les Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a background check firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). “The report provides a quick guide and references to source documents, so individuals and companies concerned with the FCRA have a place to go to start their research.”

The 1990 Commentary that the FTC is withdrawing was comprised of a series of FTC statements about how it would enforce the various provisions of the FCRA. Since 1990, the FRCA has been updated several times, most significantly by the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, also known as the FACT Act. Both updates expanded the provisions of the FCRA. The new staff report deletes several FTC interpretations in the 1990 Commentary that have since been repealed, amended, or have become obsolete or outdated. The report also adds several interpretations reflecting changes that Congress has made to the FCRA over the years, rules issued by the FTC and other agencies under the FACT Act, statements in numerous staff opinion letters, and the staff’s experience from enforcement actions.

The section-by-section Staff Summary in the report contains the FTC staff’s interpretations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and includes many interpretations from the “Statement of General Policy or Interpretations” that the Commission published in May 1990. It includes informal guidance the staff has provided to the public in the ensuing years and their experience in enforcing the FCRA. In some cases, the Staff Summary – which should be used in conjunction with the text of the FCRA – includes a partial summary of the statute, rather than the full text, as a preamble to discussion of issues pertaining to various sections and subsections. These summary statements of the law should not be used as a substitute for the statutory text.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a United States federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. A credit report contains information about a consumer’s personal and credit characteristics, character, and general reputation and is used to make credit, employment, insurance and other decisions.

The new report, “Forty Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act: An FTC Staff Report and Summary of Interpretations,” is available at: http://ftc.gov/os/2011/07/110720fcrareport.pdf.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and provides industry leading technology, legal compliance, service, turnaround, and accuracy. ESR also wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by founder and President Lester Rosen. For more information, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/07/fcra.shtm.
http://ftc.gov/os/2011/07/110720fcrareport.pdf.

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