In a little-known policy shift, the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — plan to stop collecting and reporting substantial amounts of civil judgment and tax lien information on public records affecting millions of American consumers starting July 1.
OK. But why?
In response to a request for this column, the bureaus’ national trade organization, the Consumer Data Industry Association, provided a statement indicating that the changes are part of the bureaus’ “National Consumer Assistance Plan” that follows a settlement in 2016 with 31 state attorneys general over alleged problems with credit reporting accuracy and correction of errors on credit reports.
Eric J. Ellman, the group’s interim president, said the bureaus have adopted “enhanced public record data standards for the collection and timely updating of civil judgments and tax liens.” The standards will apply to new and existing data in files and will require that the public records sources include the individual’s name, address and Social Security number or date of birth. Public records sources will also need to be updated on a timely basis to be eligible for inclusion in credit files. Most civil judgment data and up to half of tax lien information cannot currently meet these tests, according to one industry estimate.
In other words, the data is neither sufficiently identified, nor sufficiently up-to-date to be used in something as important as a credit score.
You do not have to be too much of a troublemaker to ask the obvious question: So, how come its OK to use them for other things — like landlord eviction databases, and got knows what other purposes to which this data — now often public and aggregated — can be put to.
Surely this development makes those who make use of this data vulnerable to all kinds of claims, including defenses in particular situations, and affirmative litigation to reduce abusive practices. And that’s without even getting into issues of warrants, arrests, fees, and the Ferguson Chasm.
This has to raise all kinds of uncomfortable questions for the courts — although it might help engender corporate and prosecutor support for court funding increases.
Good for the AGs.
(Thanks to David Udell for pointing this perspective out. Maybe a court record reliability number should go in the Justice Index?)