A federal lawsuit has been filed against Experian in the United States District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, for merging the credit file of one individual with the credit file of another who share the same first and last name.
While applying for a mortgage, the plaintiff in the above mentioned case discovered that Experian had included no less than twenty-three (23) tradelines (bits of credit information) which did not belong to her on the credit report used to determine her credit worthiness. After being denied the loan, the plaintiff obtained her credit file from Experian. She then contacted an Experian representative by phone to dispute the inaccurate tradelines. The Experian representative confirmed that the tradelines in question belonged to another consumer and promised to have them removed from her credit file.
However, the information contained within the credit reports which Experian provided to the loan officer, is different than the information contained within the consumer report the plaintiff received when she requested her credit report from Experian. This is not uncommon. Rather it’s standard procedure.
When Experian assembles credit reports for its subscribers (banks, employers, and others who extend credit), it allows the use of partial personal identifiers to match data used to determine the identity of the consumer. This results in a broad range of credit information being complied together to create the consumers credit report. These credit reports are likely to include information pertaining to more than one individual.
Now when a consumer requests a copy of their credit report, Experian requires a complete match of all personal identifiers, resulting in a much narrower match of data. Consequently, Experian’s own procedures for disclosing information to consumers tends to mask or conceal the problem of mixed files. By concealing this information, Experian impairs the ability of consumers to identify and dispute errors.
Mixed files are not a new phenomenon. In fact, as long ago as the early 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), entered into individual Consent Decrees with each of the major credit reporting agencies regarding its significant failures and deficiencies with respect to mixed files.
Despite Experian’s long-standing and specific knowledge of the mixed file problem, Experian continues to generate credit reports containing credit information belonging to more than one consumer.