Over 220 million Americans have consumer credit report information maintained by the three national credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This means over 660 million consumer credit reports are in circulation at any given time. Given the tremendous amount of information managed by these companies, mistakes can happen from time to time. While the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) allows consumers to dispute and have corrected their credit reports, that doesn’t mean the same corrections or deletions would occur consistently across all three of the credit bureaus. So, it begs the question, why did one credit bureau delete an item but the other two did not?
When you choose to file a dispute challenging information on a credit reports you have several options. You can file disputes with one or more of the credit bureaus, with the furnishing party, or all of them. You can even file disputes with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state’s attorney general, although these are generally better options if done in concert with credit bureau or furnisher disputes.
Regardless of which step or steps you choose, there’s no guarantee a deletion will occur. If an item is verified as accurate there’s no obligation for a credit bureau to remove it. There’s also no obligation for the furnisher to ask the credit bureaus to remove it as reporting accurate information is FCRA compliant.
Even if you are able to get an item removed from one of your credit reports, there’s no guarantee the other two credit bureaus will remove it. While the credit bureaus are all in the same industry, they are different companies with different policies. From time to time credit bureaus will implement policies whereby they will remove or modify credit information simply because the consumer asked them to do so.
Unless such a policy exists across all three of the credit bureaus you may experience different responses and results to your disputes. One of those could be the deletion/removal of an item with one credit bureau but not with the other two.
Another example could occur if you were to file disputes of the same item with all three of the credit bureaus. The credit bureaus would communicate your dispute to the furnishing party, normally a financial services company or debt collector, and ask them to investigate the item per your request. If two of the credit bureaus receive a response verifying the item as accurate, but the third receives no response, then the item will be removed from one of your credit reports but not from the other two.
While the inconsistency may be confusing, it’s certainly not illegal or an FCRA violation. Credit bureaus are allowed to maintain accurate information, regardless of what their competitors are doing with the information. And, credit bureaus are required to remove information if it cannot be verified, even if their competitors are able to verify the item.
Finally, while it might be tempting to use the investigation results from the “deleting” credit bureau against the “non-deleting” credit bureaus, it’s not going to work. There is no requirement in the FCRA for a credit bureau to delete an item simply because another credit bureau deleted it.
The reason the strategy is ineffective is because the items may have been removed because the deleting credit bureau simply may have not gotten a response to their investigative actions within 30 days, but did receive verification of the item at some point after. In that scenario the item would be removed, but then reinserted once it has been verified or re-reported by the furnisher. In this scenario you would end up with the item back on your credit reports as the credit bureaus and furnishing party would all be of the belief that it is accurate and verifiable.