Blumenthal Calls on Credit Reporting Bureaus to Explain Reports of “V.I.P.” Lists

(Washington, DC) – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today wrote to the heads of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax Inc., Experian, and TransUnion – to call on them to respond to recent reports that they maintain V.I.P. member lists, in which errors and disputes are resolved faster and with more attention than other consumers.

“I am deeply troubled by the implication that your companies are neglecting the majority of consumers and providing preferential treatment for wealthy, famous, or well-connected persons, and I ask you to confirm or deny these reports and provide more information on your dispute resolution process,” writes Blumenthal in the letter. “An error-free credit report is vital to a consumer’s financial health, and consumers must be able to quickly resolve disputes and mistakes with the cooperation of the credit reporting bureau. Every consumer deserves this cooperation, not just the rich and powerful.”

In the letter, Blumenthal also calls on the bureau executives to answer a number of questions, such as describing their process for resolving consumer disputes, how services offered to those on any existing V.I.P. lists differ from the services offered to the majority of consumers, how the companies may determine whether a consumer should receive preferential treatment, and whether consumers are aware of placement on such a list.

The text of the letter follows:

Richard F. Smith
Chairman and CEO
Equifax Inc.
1550 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30309

Don Robert
CEO
Experian
475 Anton Boulevard
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Siddarth N. Mehta
President and CEO
TransUnion
555 W. Adams Street
Chicago, IL 60661

Dear Mr. Smith, Mr. Robert, and Mr. Mehta:

            I am writing regarding reports that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion maintain a separate system for so-called V.I.P. members, in which errors and disputes are resolved faster and with more attention than other consumers. I am deeply troubled by the implication that your companies are neglecting the majority of consumers and providing preferential treatment for wealthy, famous, or well-connected persons, and I ask you to confirm or deny these reports and provide more information on your dispute resolution process.

            According to recent reports, most consumers who wish to resolve errors or disputes on their credit reports do so via an automated system and outsourced customer support. An elite group of consumers, however, “get special help from workers in the United States in fixing mistakes on their credit reports. Any errors are usually corrected immediately,” according to one report.[1] Experian appears to be the only company that explicitly denied employing a V.I.P. list, although other sources quoted in the article disputed this claim.

            A consumer’s credit history has a critical impact on his ability to open a credit card or obtain a loan for a major purchase such as a house or car. Some employers even review a potential employee’s credit history when making hiring decisions. An error-free credit report is vital to a consumer’s financial health, and consumers must be able to quickly resolve disputes and mistakes with the cooperation of the credit reporting bureau. Every consumer deserves this cooperation, not just the rich and powerful.

            I ask that you answer the following questions:

  • Please describe your process for resolving consumer disputes.
  • Does your company maintain a V.I.P. list of consumers who receive special consideration, or are all consumers treated equally?
  • If your company does offer a V.I.P. list, how do the services offered to these consumers differ from the services offered to the majority of consumers?
  • If your company does offer a V.I.P. list, how does your company determine whether a consumer should receive preferential treatment?
  • If your company does offer a V.I.P. list, are consumers on that list aware of placement on such list?
  • What percentage of your company’s reports contain potential errors? What percentage contain serious errors?
  • On average, how long does it take your company to resolve an error once a consumer has disputed an item on the consumer’s credit report? If your company maintains a V.I.P. list, please list the average time for a consumer on that list, as well.

I appreciate your prompt response.

Sincerely,

/s/

Senator Richard Blumenthal

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[1] Tara Siegel Bernard, Credit Error? It Pays to Be On V.I.P. List, N.Y. Times, May 15, 2011, at A1.