Advisory Opinion to Haner (08-27-98)

August 27, 1998

Michael W. Haner
Electronic Security Service
6543 Ledbetter
Houston, Texas 77087

RE: Applicability of FCRA to Commercial Credit Reports

Dear Mr. Haner:

This is in response to your letter concerning the applicability of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") to reports disseminated by Dun & Bradstreet ("D&B"). Your letter indicates that you are the sole proprietor in a business. You ask whether D&B's report on your business is a consumer report under the FCRA, because you are personally liable for the financial obligations of the business and the report contains information on you personally in its discussion of the company history. In our opinion, it is not.

Section 603(d) of the FCRA specifically defines "consumer report" as the communication of information which bears on the consumer's credit, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living and "which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer's eligibility" for credit, insurance, employment or other permissible purpose. In the scenario you present, D&B reports information that it collects, and expects to be used, to evaluate your business. Neither your personal liability for the debts of that business, nor the inclusion of personal information about you in the report, changes the fact that the information in the report is collected and provided for commercial purposes. Commentary to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 16 C.F.R. Part 600 Appendix, 55 Fed. Reg. 18,804, 18,810 (May 4, 1990), comment 603(d)-3C. Thus, the D&B report you describe is a commercial report, which is not subject to the provisions of the FCRA.

You have posed two additional questions regarding the applicability of specific FCRA provisions to your scenario. In light of our conclusion that the FCRA does not apply to the report you describe, however, the remaining two questions are moot.

The opinions set forth in this informal staff letter are not binding on the Commission.


Helen G. Foster