The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Altmeyer Home Stores, Inc., a retailer of draperies and curtains -- headquartered in New Kensington, Pennsylvania -- to resolve charges that it failed to tell job applicants denied employment when information in the applicants’ credit records played a role in the denials. The FTC also alleged that Altmeyer failed to tell the applicants the name and address of the company that provided the credit-history information. That failure prevented consumers from getting information crucial to exercising their rights under the FCRA to correct any erroneous entries in their credit reports. The proposed settlement would remedy the violations charged and prohibit Altmeyer from engaging in similar violations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the future.
The FCRA was designed to give consumers an opportunity, at no cost to them, to learn the contents of and challenge incorrect information in their credit reports. These reports, which are compiled by consumer reporting agencies, contain important information about consumer credit and loan accounts, bill-paying habits, and certain other information. Under the law, when a consumer is denied credit, insurance or employment based in whole or in part on information in his or her credit report, the denying company must notify the consumer that the report played a role in the denial and also give the consumer the name and address of the consumer reporting agency that supplied the consumer’s credit report. Thereafter, the consumer can contact the credit reporting agency within 60 days to obtain a free copy of the credit report, check for errors and, if any are found, request that the agency reinvestigate and correct them.
In the complaint detailing the charges, the FTC alleged that it was not Altmeyer’s practice to advise job applicants when their credit reports contributed to a decision to deny applications or rescind offers of employment, or to advise these applicants of the name and address of the consumer reporting agency that supplied the report, in violation of the FCRA.
The proposed consent agreement to settle the charges, announced today for public comment before the Commission determines whether to make it final, would require Altmeyer to comply with the notification provisions of the FCRA in the future.
The order also contains various recordkeeping and reporting provisions that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondent’s compliance.
Several free FTC brochures address the issues raised by this case and new responsibilities for employers under the amended FCRA. "Consumer Reports: What Employers Should Know About Using Them," explains the FCRA, how employers can use credit reports and their legal responsibility to notify applicants when information in their credit reports influences a decision not to hire them. For example, effective Sept. 30, 1997, the FCRA requires that an employer disclose to an applicant or an employee that it may obtain his or her credit report before doing so, and to obtain from the applicant or employee a written permission to obtain such report. In addition, "Credit and Your Consumer Rights" and "Fair Credit Reporting" are for consumers and provide information about how credit reports are compiled and used, who has access to them, and how the laws help ensure the accuracy and privacy of these reports.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment in this case was 4-0, with Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga not participating. An announcement regarding the agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. It will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make them final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the brochures referenced above, and the complaint, proposed consent agreement, and analysis of the agreement to assist the public in commenting, are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Consent agreements subject to public comment also are available by calling 202-326-3627. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 962 3063)
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