Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Make flawed credit report an easy fix

Nearly 200 people complained to the Federal Trade Commission because a credit bureau claimed they were dead on their credit report, a 2012 study by the Columbus Dispatch recently found. Correcting a credit report should be easy: Make a phone call, submit a document and all clear. But a bureaucratic runaround is more typical. If Congress won't act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission should give consumers new legal rights when arguing over factual errors in credit reports.

An individual's credit score is determined by some mysterious formula that takes consumers' financial data as reported by lenders and crunches it to, viola, determine one's creditworthiness. These numbers have a huge impact on people's ability to conduct the business of daily life. Credit scores often dictate mortgage interest terms, access to credit cards and whether someone can borrow money to start a business. Employers will look up credit scores of potential employees. Landlords will do so on potential renters. This is the reason that the three largest credit bureaus have so much power.

With billions of pieces of information flowing into millions of credit files every month, errors are bound to occur. This year, the FTC reported that nearly 20 percent of consumers had a mistake in at least one of their credit reports. The investigation by the Columbus Dispatch found that 1,500 of 30,000 complaints to the FTC involved a credit report that mixed in someone else's information. For almost a third of those, the credit bureaus refused to correct the mistakes.

Consumers are left without the legal tools to force corrections. Federal law says that credit bureaus must conduct "reasonable investigations" when disputes arise. That vague language has allowed the companies to do very little to get at the truth. Credit bureaus have a financial incentive to take a lender's word at face value since they rely heavily on lenders to submit information on consumers and buy their products. Meanwhile, consumers have no power to prevent their financial information from being reported to the credit bureaus.

Congress should update the law to give consumers the power to demand accuracy in their credit reports. But given how difficult it is to get anything done in Congress, the job in the short run falls to the consumer protection bureau and the FTC. These government regulators could add teeth to current law by imposing higher standards for putting information into credit files in the first place. If matching Social Security numbers were required there would be less mixing of strangers' data. Also, a stronger definition for what constitutes a reasonable investigation should include steps beyond taking a lender's word for it.

No one should have to spend months or years proving that he is alive to a credit bureau so he can obtain credit. Current laws and rules have not done enough to give consumers power over their own information.

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 5 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18