Bill Would Protect Consumers From Identity Theft; Issue Free Credit Reports
Nov 05 2003
WASHINGTON - Saying it would ensure that Americans would continue to enjoy quick and easy access to credit in order to buy cars, homes and other consumer goods, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today voted for legislation to modernize a federal law that regulates national credit reporting standards. The Senate approved the National Consumer Credit System Improvement Act on a 95-2 vote. The bill must now be negotiated with a similar bill that passed the House, and then sent to the president to be signed into law. The bill's main purpose is to update the 30-year-old Fair Credit Reporting Act, which governs business and consumer access to credit information. The Senate-passed legislation would broaden the scope of the original law to provide consumers with greater protections against identity theft, more control over the release of medical information and better access to credit information, including free annual credit reports. "The bill would ensure that Americans continue to have easy access to credit, while also protecting them against identity theft and other hazards of today's technological world," said Sen. Carper. "This bill strikes the right balance between giving consumers more control over their credit reports and making sure creditors can still issue credit quickly and responsibly." Sen. Carper praised various aspects of the bill that would strengthen consumer protections under current law. Among those provisions: Identity Theft: The bill would set up a system that would allow consumers to flag their credit reports if they suspect they have been a victim or could be a victim of identity theft. Once flagged, as a way of protecting against the issuance of false credit accounts, credit agencies and companies would have to go through various extra steps before issuing any new credit lines to consumers. Consumers would also have the ability to block information on their credit reports that result from identity theft. Free Credit Reports: Under the bill, consumers would have access to a free annual credit report, which would give more consumers the ability to review their financial history and make appropriate corrections. The Federal Trade Commission is also ordered to publicize how consumers can get a free credit report and how to dispute information contained in it. Medical Privacy: The bill would prohibit companies from using medical history as a reason to deny credit. In addition, the bill would create a system for consumer reporting agencies to code medical information so that someone looking at a credit report cannot discover a consumer's medical history. Financial Literacy: The bill would establish the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, which would promote efforts to make consumers more aware of their financial health. The commission would coordinate with state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private enterprise as part of their educational outreach.