For many of us, our credit report is arguably the most important aspect of our financial lives. It can affect whether or not we receive a loan to buy a house or start a new business. It can even affect whether or not a potential employer decides to hire us. There are numerous companies in existence to provide us with access to our credit score so we can keep track of and control this important record. It is no wonder, therefore, that a person would take it very seriously if they found out that there were mistakes on their credit report.
That is exactly what happened to Julie Miller of Marion County, Oregon. Miller claims she made at least eight attempts between 2009 and 2011 to reach out to Equifax to correct errors she found on her credit report. Miller says she had done the same with two other credit reporting agencies and they had had no problems responding to her requests. For some reason though, Equifax allegedly refused to budge on the issue.
Miller’s complaint was far more serious than a mere misspelled name or an incorrect address. Her credit report allegedly contained credit accounts which she says she never opened, as well as debt collection attempts and a Social Security number which did not belong to her. Just one of these errors by itself would be enough to cause severe damage to anyone’s credit score, let alone all of them at once.
Miller’s attorney, Justin Baxter, told Oregon Live that these mistakes on her credit report resulted in “damage to her reputation, a breach of privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit”. Baxter also said that Miller has a brother who is disabled and unable to get credit on his own. Because of these persistent errors on her credit report, Miller was unable to help him.
After spending years fruitlessly trying to get Equifax to correct the information on her credit report, Miller has finally received justice at the hands of the law. A long battle in federal court has recently resulted in an order for Equifax to pay Miller $18 million in damages. This is one of the largest awards in history against a credit agency.
While the court’s decision is undoubtedly a huge victory for Miller, the lawsuit provides an example of the very disjointed world of credit reporting in our country today. A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission found errors on the credit reports of as many as one in five consumers. Only 20% of people who disputed errors ever saw them corrected.
The frightening aspect of these allegations against Equifax is that Miller did everything she was supposed to do. Once she was aware of the problems on her credit report, she contacted all three credit bureaus to ask for the necessary corrections. She also asked them for copies of her credit report.
Obviously, the goal behind these kinds of lawsuits is not only the award in damages for the plaintiffs, but to encourage credit bureaus to take complaints from customers seriously. Whether or not that goal has been achieved here has yet to be determined. At the moment, Equifax is preparing to appeal the verdict.