Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced a bill that would completely overhaul the American credit reporting system that builds on a draft proposal she made in September 2014.
Waters’ goal with the “Comprehensive Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 2016,” H.R. 5282, is to make the credit reporting system “fairer, more accurate, and less confusing” for consumers. Consumer credit reporting agencies currently maintain files for about 200 million American adults; these reports are used by most creditors to determine whether or not to extend credit to consumers, especially for major purchases such as a mortgage—and if so, on what terms. Credit reports are often used by employers and landlords for non-credit decisions also.
According to Waters, about 40 million Americans (approximately one-fifth of consumers with a credit report) have credit reports that contain errors, and the process for getting those errors corrected can be very difficult. The legislation proposed by Waters would end the “onerous burdens unfairly imposed on consumers” to correct errors in their credit reports.
“American consumers are increasingly reliant on credit information that is used to determine their ability to buy a house, open a checking account, or even get a job,” Waters said. “We’ve all heard the horror stories about the serious problems with credit reporting practices that unjustly restrict so many people’s economic opportunities.”
The key points of Waters’ proposed legislation include:
- Protecting the credit standing of consumers who have been victims of predatory and abusive practices related to foreclosures caused by discriminatory loans
- Shifting the burden of proof from consumers to credit bureaus and furnishers to prove the accuracy and completeness of credit information during the dispute process
- Shortening the time that most adverse credit information stays on credit reports down to four years, and quickly removing settled or paid debts.
“I believe it is also time to shine light into the mysterious ‘black boxes’ that generate credit scores and give victims, who are saddled with poor credit because of predatory and unfair practices, the chance for a fresh start,” Waters said. “This bill will bring much-needed accountability to the credit reporting industry, which will enhance consumer and creditor confidence in the integrity of information on reports and restore fairness in the system.”