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EQUIFAX, 18 STATES AGREE TO CHANGES IN CREDIT REPORTING PRACTICES

EQUIFAX, 18 STATES AGREE TO CHANGES IN CREDIT REPORTING PRACTICES
 HARRISBURG, Pa., June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Equifax, one of the nation's largest credit reporting agencies, will take steps to eliminate errors from its files under terms of an agreement with Pennsylvania and 17 other states, Attorney General Ernie Preate Jr. announced today.
 The "agreement of assurances" also requires Equifax to pay the states a total of $150,000 in costs.
 Preate said Equifax and other credit reporting agencies collect personal and financial information on consumers and sell that information to subscribers such as banks and retail companies, which use the reports in determining whether to extend credit.
 "Accurate credit reports are essential in today's tough economic times," the attorney general said. "Families that rely on their good credit to get by can be hurt by erroneous information in their credit reports."
 Preate said several states, including Pennsylvania, have been examining credit reporting industry practices in response to complaints from consumers who say they've found inaccurate information on their credit reports and have had difficulty getting the reports corrected.
 Last year Preate's office received and investigated more than 2,500 credit-related complaints from consumers.
 "The agreement requires Equifax to undertake or continue programs to improve its procedures and better serve consumers," Preate said.
 The attorney general noted that Equifax voluntarily initiated some of the programs it committed to in the agreement, including setting up a toll-free telephone number and making improvements in its system for matching credit information to consumers.
 Equifax also agreed to:
 -- Complete investigation of information disputed by consumers within 30 days and provide consumers with corrected versions of their credit reports.
 -- Change disputed items of information if a consumer provides documentation showing the information is inaccurate or incomplete, unless Equifax finds the documentation is not authentic.
 -- Check public record information disputed by consumers to determine whether the information is accurate.
 -- Maintain procedures to ensure that disputed information that is deleted does not reappear.
 -- Send consumers their credit reports within four days of receiving a request.
 -- Charge consumers no more than $8 for a copy of a credit report.
 -- Evaluate, through consumer research, whether the format of its consumer credit reports may be made easier for consumers to read and understand.
 -- Disclose a consumer's risk score, along with an explanation of risk scores, beginning one year from the date of the agreement.
 The attorney general noted that his office will continue to monitor Equifax's handling of its records, and will continue to investigate every consumer complaint we receive.
 In addition to Pennsylvania, states entering the agreement with Equifax are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Washington.
 Deputy Attorney General John E. Kelly, attorney-in-charge of the Philadelphia office of Preate's Bureau of Consumer Protection, represented Pennsylvania in the negotiations with Equifax.
 Preate noted that many of the states which are parties to this agreement, including Pennsylvania, were also involved in a lawsuit filed against TRW, another major credit reporting agency. That suit was resolved by an agreement signed last December.
 Preate said his office is working with state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf to develop a state Fair Credit Reporting Act.
 Although noting that his office currently regulates the credit reporting industry through the state's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, Preate said a new Fair Credit Reporting Act would provide additional safeguards for consumers.
 The attorney general said he opposes proposed amendments to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act which would limit the ability of the states to use state laws to regulate the credit reporting industry.
 "It's extremely important that my office, the only agency in Pennsylvania with the expertise and ability to resolve credit reporting problems, be permitted to continue to do so," Preate said.
 /delval/
 -0- 6/30/92
 /CONTACT: Jack J. Lewis of the Office of Attorney General, 717-787-5211, or at home, 717-657-9840/ CO: Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office; Equifax ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


MP -- PH017 -- 5174 06/30/92 12:30 EDT
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Date:Jun 30, 1992
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