Advisory Opinion to Poquette (06-09-98)

June 10, 1998

Ms. Mary Poquette
Verifications, Inc.
920 Second Avenue South
Suite 610
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402

Re: Section 603(d) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Dear Ms. Poquette:

This is in reply to your letter asking for the staff's views on the scope of the term "con-sumer report" as used in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Specifically, you ask whether the term covers only reports containing credit information or whether it is broader in application. You report being told by a number of your clients that some consumer reporting agencies are telling them that the FCRA covers only reports that contain consumer credit information.

The definition of the term "consumer report" in Section 603(d)(1) of the FCRA is broad and covers any information bearing on a consumer's "credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for" various listed purposes, including credit, employment, or the underwriting of insurance. The terms "character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living" cover a great deal of non-credit information. For example, driving records, employment records, and criminal records all involve these charac-teristics, although these types of information do not necessarily reflect upon credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity.

As you can see, the FCRA covers a great deal of information other than credit-related material. Those in the business community who believe that the FCRA is limited to credit are misreading the law. Failure to comply with the FCRA, including the duties imposed by the law upon users of consumer reports, may subject a business to liability for damages, civil penalties, and other relief pursuant to Sections 616, 617, and 621.

I hope that this fully addresses your question. The views expressed in this letter are those of the Commission's staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission or of any particular Commissioner.

Sincerely,

William Haynes
Attorney
Division of Credit Practices