Class Action Alleges Experian Illegal Access to Consumer Files

With exceptions, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to limit access to consumers credit files to persons with whom the consumer has a credit relationship. A credit relationship is one in which the consumer and a creditor agreed the consumer could defer payment. Persons who do not have a credit relationship with the consumer have no right to look at the consumer’s credit files.

If a person’s car is towed and stored off the street without his or her consent, the tow company will typically give the owner a notice to pay the tow and storage bills. If the owner does not pay the charges, the tow company sells the car in a lien sale. After the sale, the tow company is often owed some hundreds to thousands of dollars. The tow company then turns the debt over to a collection agency that specializes in attempting to collect tow bills.

The question is whether a debt collector attempting to collect such debts has a right to access the owner’s credit files. In a case handled by Andrew Ogilvie of this office, in 2007 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that debt collectors attempting to collect debts arising from involuntary towing and storage of vehicles may not access Experian’s files on the owner.

In spite of the court’s ruling, we allege in a new class action that Experian has continued to allow debt collectors seeking to collect on tow bills to access vehicle owners’ credit files. The case is Holman v. Experian, No. CV-11-000180-JF and is pending in the Northern District of California.

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