The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has adopted a rule to begin supervising larger consumer reporting agencies – including the “big three” credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – for the first time at the federal level, according to a CFPB press release ‘Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to supervise credit reporting.’ The rule outlining the CFPB’s supervision of larger consumer reporting agencies, which will be effective September 30, 2012, is available here: ‘Defining Larger Participants of the Consumer Reporting Market.’ “Credit reporting is at the heart of our lending systems and enables many of us to get credit, afford a home, or get an education,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated in the CFPB press release. “Supervising this market will help ensure that it works properly for consumers, lenders, and the wider economy.” The rule states that the CFPB will supervise consumer reporting agencies with more than $7 million in annual receipts, an estimated 30 companies accounting for approximately 94 percent of the market’s annual receipts. The three largest credit reporting companies issue more than 3 billion consumer reports a year on over 200 million Americans used for determining consumer eligibility and rates for credit. While credit reporting companies are already mandated by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for accuracy and fairness in credit reporting, no single federal government agency was overseeing the entire credit reporting market. Under the new rule, the CFPB will be authorized to supervise the larger consumer reporting agencies as defined by the rule, write new rules, and enforce the law as needed. Although a small number of large businesses dominate the credit reporting market, there are approximately 400 consumer reporting agencies in the United States. The market includes:
- The largest credit reporting companies that sell comprehensive consumer reports;
- Consumer report resellers that buy consumer information from the largest agencies then typically provide further input to the report by, for example, merging files from multiple agencies, to resell them;
- Specialty consumer reporting companies that primarily collect and provide specific types of information like on payday loans or checking accounts; and
- Companies that analyze consumer report data.