- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

One in four credit reports surveyed recently by the United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) contained errors serious enough to result in credit denial, the group said.

The survey also found that 54 percent of credit reports contained inaccurate personal demographic identifying information, 79 percent contained mistakes of some kind and 30 percent contained credit accounts that the consumer had closed but remained listed as open.

“These mistakes occur because the credit bureaus are sloppy. The credit bureaus do not adequately verify that that information belongs to you before they attach it to your credit report,” Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate at PIRG, said.

Three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Trans Union and Experian — track consumers’ financial information and then sell the resulting consumer reports to credit agencies, insurance companies, employers, utilities and landlords who use the information to determine whether an individual is likely to pay his bills.

The bureaus gather their information from creditors, banks and various public records.

Included in the survey, which was released Thursday, were 154 adults in 30 states who were asked to review their credit reports for accuracy. Because some subjects ordered their reports from multiple credit bureaus, they completed multiple surveys, resulting in the submission of 197 surveys. Most of the people who participated were PIRG members.

“I think that it’s interesting that PIRG would chastise a group for an issue about accuracy when the report that they put out is highly inaccurate,” Norm Magnunson, vice president of public affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association, said. “If PIRG proposes to serve [with surveys] 154 of their own employees and members and then come up with an answer, I think that they got an answer they wanted.”

Mr. Magnunson also thinks that the survey’s findings, such as the statement that 25 percent of the credit reports contain data serious enough to deny lenders credit, are inaccurate.

“You only have to look at the market to determine that a 25 percent error ratio doesn’t stand the test of the reality of the marketplace. If lenders were making credit decisions based on a product that was faulty one-quarter of the time, their loss rations would be sky-high, and they’re not,” Mr. Magnunson said.

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