Fair Credit Reporting Act: Protecting Consumer Rights
The FCRA is a consumer protection law that regulates the activities of consumer reporting agencies, the users of consumer reports and those who provide information to consumer reporting agencies. The FCRA aims to protect a consumer’s privacy and reputation by placing mandatory requirements on persons and companies who use or provide information about the consumer’s credit, character and personal characteristics. While originally enacted in 1971, it was amended extensively by the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 and again, by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions in 2003. You can review a copy of the FCRA at www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore.
How it Affects You
Any company that orders background checks on prospective or current tenants or employees, and uses the information obtained in the background check to make either rental or employment decisions needs to understand how the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to them.
The FCRA defines a “consumer report” as any written, oral, or other communication of any information made by a consumer reporting agency that includes information on a consumer’s “character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.” An “investigative consumer report” is one in which the information is obtained through personal interviews with the consumer’s neighbors, friends or associated who may have knowledge about the consumer.
Reports that are prepared by a background screening agency fall within the definition of a “consumer report” because criminal history records, driving records, employment references, and other background checks contain information about the individual’s personal characteristics, general reputation and/or creditworthiness. Companies that receive and use background screening reports must comply with certain FCRA obligations as users of consumer reports.
Check-Point supports consumer reporting legislation that will assure fair and equitable treatment for all consumers and users of background information. In addition to supporting the legislation, we understand the complexity of FCRA obligations and strive to ensure our users are familiar with compliance standards including:
- Permissible purposes for obtaining consumer reports
- Disclosure and release forms
- Certification from end user to consumer reporting agency
- Dispute and reinvestigation procedures
- Adverse action process
- Disposal of consumer reports
- State laws related to background checks and consumer reports