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In study, 1 in 4 consumers had a credit-report error

WASHINGTON — One in four consumers had an error in a credit report issued by a major agency, a Federal Trade Commission study released Monday says.

The FTC also said 5 percent of 1,001 consumers surveyed had identified errors in their reports that could lead to their paying more for mortgages, auto loans, or other financial products.

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The study looked at reports from the three major agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

The study closely matches the results of a yearlong investigation by The Columbus Dispatch. The Ohio newspaper’s report said thousands of consumers were denied loans because of credit-report errors. The FTC says the findings underline the importance of checking credit reports. Consumers are entitled to a free copy of each report every year.

The FTC study also found 20 percent of consumers had an error that was corrected after the consumer disputed it. About 10 percent had their credit score changed after a reporting agency corrected errors.

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In September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gained authority to write and enforce rules for the credit reporting industry and to monitor the compliance of the three agencies. Prior to that, the reporting agencies weren’t subject to ongoing monitoring by federal examiners.

The CFPB has not yet taken any public action against the agencies. However, it is accepting complaints from consumers who discover incorrect information on their reports or have trouble getting mistakes corrected. The agencies have 15 days to respond to the complaints with a plan for fixing the problem; consumers can dispute that response.

By contrast, the FTC can take action only if there is an earlier indication of wrongdoing. It cannot demand information from or investigate companies that appear to be following the law.

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