Home > Credit Score > Equifax Ordered to Pay $18.6M for Credit Report Mistakes

Comments 0 Comments

Julie Miller’s long battle to fix her credit report ended Friday, when a jury awarded her $18.6 million in her civil suit against credit reporting agency Equifax.

Miller says her troubles started in late 2009, when she was denied credit at Hubbard Bank due to her credit report. In 2009, she requested her credit report from Equifax, receiving a response nearly a month later asking for more information.

Supplying the new information, Miller says she requested her report again, which she received later that month with false identification information, an incorrect Social Security number, the wrong birthdate and collection accounts she didn’t owe. Miller says she acted swiftly, filing a dispute with Equifax by sending a copy of her report with the errors highlighted twice within five days after receiving it.

For the next two years, Miller claims she disputed her report six more times, and requested her new report several more times, receiving the same form letter in response each time, if at all. In her case, the root cause of the problems was a mix-up with another Julie Miller, whose information was mistakenly placed in the plaintiff’s record.

In a prepared statement, Equifax’s Senior Director of Public Relations Meredith Griffanti said, “We are very disappointed in the jury verdict and we are exploring our options.”

The multi-million dollar award Miller received is major news in the credit reporting industry, which has come under fire recently for the issue of credit report errors.

Credit Report Mistakes Not Uncommon

Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, testified in the Senate in May on this topic and says that errors like Miller’s are not uncommon. He believes that the most important part of this verdict is the message it sends to the credit bureaus.

“This is another shoe that drops on that industry. You’ve got the Senate looking into it, the CFPB investigating it, and this is another clear message to the industry,” he says. “Is this the tipping point where the industry changes its practices and actually maintains information? Who knows, but hopefully there’s a message here loud and clear that they better clean up their act.”

A ten-year study by the Federal Trade Commission released in February of this year found that 26% of the 1,001 participants filed a dispute with at least one of the national credit reporting agencies. Of those consumers (262 in total), 206 saw at least some modification of their credit report following the dispute, with 129 seeing a change in their credit score as a result.

One important reason to check your credit reports is to discover — and correct — errors that could be harming your credit score.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Americans are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can begin at AnnualCreditReport.com, and verify that your information and payment history is correct. (Monitoring your credit score using a free service like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card is a good way to do a regular check-up on your credit.)

“There’s a lesson here, and it’s of persistence,” Rheingold says. “When you see that you’re being denied credit wrongly, or when you discover there’s incorrect information in your credit report, it’s essential that you dispute it with the bureau and document that dispute.”

Image: iStockphoto

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team