In September 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a nationwide settlement against Equifax in response to a class action. The suit alleges that Equifax, one of three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by including inaccurate information about tax liens, civil judgements, and other public records on its credit reports.
As part of the settlement, the Equifax Public Record Settlement has been covered throughout the country through national media. One of Class Counsel, Jim Francis, founding partner of Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. recently gave a series of radio interviews about the settlement and other related credit reporting topics.
In the radio interviews, Mr. Francis describes how the actions of credit reporting agencies regarding the use of public records can affect consumers, including the following:
- How credit reporting agencies calculate credit scores
- Why inaccurate information can cause credit scores to drop hundreds of points
- Two ways in which inaccurate public records may appear on consumer credit reports
- The harm suffered by innocent consumers as a result of these inaccuracies
When asked about how the case arose Francis said “We noticed that Equifax was reporting public record information inaccurately. In some cases, tax liens or judgements belonging to somebody else were appearing on innocent consumers’ credit reports. In other instances, Equifax was not updating their records when tax liens were paid off or judgements were satisfied.”
A tax lien is imposed on a property to secure payment of income taxes, property taxes, or some other form of tax, including state and federal taxes. A civil judgement typically refers to a court ruling relating to an outstanding debt. The appearance of either one on a credit report can adversely affect a consumer’s credit score by hundreds of points.
How Inaccurate Public Records May Harm Consumers
Tax liens and civil judgements are public records. When credit agencies use practices that allow inaccurate public records to appear on a credit report, consumers are harmed because they end up with lower credit scores through no fault of their own. Lenders place considerable emphasis on credit scores when consumers are looking to buy or rent a home, lease a car, get insurance, or obtain a loan or credit card. The effect of a lower credit score is significant, particularly now when consumers may be relying more on credit because of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through no fault of their own, consumer class members suffered because they either had a public record reported about them that belonged to someone else or one of their records had been paid or satisfied and was still being reported as unpaid or delinquent. The settlement represents a victory for individuals harmed in this way.
Terms of the Settlement
While Equifax denies liability, it has agreed to create a streamlined process known as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program that enables affected consumers to easily submit a claim and receive payment of $1500. Consumers need to provide some basic information that they were denied credit or suffered a similar adverse action because an Equifax credit report contained an inaccurate tax lien or civil judgement. Additionally, as part of the settlement, Equifax has stopped reporting public records entirely for five years, ensuring that inaccurately reported tax liens and judgements cannot affect consumer credit scores during this period.
Radio Interviews with Jim Francis
Consumers can learn more about the Equifax settlement, credit reporting, and the impact of inaccuracies on credit scores by listening to any one of the following radio segments featuring an interview with Attorney Jim Francis:
Consumers seeking payment from the Equifax Public Record Settlement can visit www.EquifaxPublicRecordSettlement.com to submit a claim form. Consumers who are unsure whether or not they are included in the class action suit may call (855) 624-2739 or email EquifaxClassAction@consumerlawfirm.com. The ADR program for consumers will be available until December 31, 2021.
The radio interviews with Jim Francis focus on the Equifax Public Record Settlement, not the Equifax Data Breach Settlement. The Public Record Settlement is about inaccurate reporting of civil judgments and tax liens. It is unrelated to the Data Breach case, is not in the same court, and involves different consumer lawyers.