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Consumers, Lenders See Different Credit Scores

CFPB study points up discrepancies that may harm consumers

Many consumers spend good money subscribing to services that supposedly give them factual information about their credit score. But a study released Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that about one out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a lender.

“This study highlights the complexities consumers face in the credit scoring market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “When consumers buy a credit score, they should be aware that a lender may be using a very different score in making a credit decision.”

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the CFPB to compare credit scores sold to creditors and those sold to consumers by nationwide credit bureaus and to determine whether differences between those scores harm consumers.

The new study analyzes credit scores from 200,000 credit files from each of the following credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.  It is a follow-up to a study the Bureau released in July 2011 that described the credit scoring industry, the types of credit scores, and the potential problems for consumers that could result from differences between the scores they purchase and the scores creditors use.

The study released today determined:

One out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a creditor: When consumers purchase their score from a credit bureau, the score they receive may be meaningfully different from the score that a lender would consult in making a decision. A meaningful difference means that the consumer would be likely to qualify for different credit offers – either better or worse – than they would expect to get based on the score they purchased. 

Score discrepancies may generate consumer harm:  When discrepancies exist between the scores consumers purchase and the scores used for decision-making by lenders in the marketplace, consumers may take action that does not benefit them.  For example, consumers who have reviewed their own score may expect a certain price from a lender, may waste time and effort applying for loans they are not qualified for, or may accept offers that are worse than they could get.

Consumers unlikely to know about score discrepancies:  There is no way for consumers to know how the score they receive will compare to the score a creditor uses in making a lending decision.  As such, consumers cannot exclusively rely on the credit score they receive to understand how lenders will view their creditworthiness.

What to do

The Bureau recommends that consumers consider the following in evaluating the credit score they receive:

Shop around for credit.  Consumers benefit by shopping for credit.  Regardless of the scores different lenders use, they may offer different loan terms because they operate different risk models or face different competitive pressures.   Consumers should not rule out of seeking lower priced credit because of assumptions they make about their credit score.  While some consumers are reluctant to shop for credit out of fear that they will harm their credit score, that negative impact may be overblown.  Inquiries generally do not result in a large reduction in a consumer credit score. 

Check the credit report for accuracy and dispute errors.  Credit scores are calculated based on information in a consumer’s credit file.  Inaccurate information may be the difference between a consumer being approved or denied a loan.  Before shopping for major credit items, the Bureau recommends that consumers review their credit files for inaccuracies.   Each of the nationwide credit bureaus is required by law to provide credit reports for free to consumers who request them once every 12 months. 

The Bureau will begin supervising consumer reporting agencies as of September 30, 2012.  The CFPB’s supervisory authority will cover an estimated 30 companies that account for about 94 percent of the market’s annual receipts. 

The Bureau’s examiners will be looking to verify that consumer reporting companies are complying with federal consumer financial law, including that the companies are using and providing accurate information, handling consumer disputes, making disclosures available, and preventing fraud and identity theft.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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