House passes legislation to overhaul consumer credit reporting

Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at overhauling consumer credit reporting and providing additional protections and opportunities to rebuild credit.  

The measure, which consisted of a package of six bills, passed along party lines. It includes language calling for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to establish a credit rehabilitation process, bar credit rating agencies from including delinquent or defaulted student loans on credit reports after the borrower makes nine monthly payments on time and require private lenders to offer repayment plans to those facing economic hardship who are looking to rehabilitate their credit scores.

The legislation also includes provisions that would strengthen restrictions on credit checks for employment decisions unless necessary for positions that require background checks “by a federal, state or local law, or for a national security clearance” and would shorten the time negative credit information stays on a report down to four years and make changes to the credit report dispute process. 

Proponents of the bill argued it is a necessary step to fight back against abusive or predatory practices and provide borrowers with options to gain financial stability. 

“This bill, this package of bills builds upon reforms that members of the Financial Services Committee have been developing for several congresses. Mr. Chairman, credit reporting is unlike any other business,” House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.  

“Consumers are not customers of credit reporting agencies, they are the product. Credit reporting agencies package up consumers’ data to sell to lenders, employers and other businesses. Unfortunately, our system of consumer credit reporting is badly broken and consumers have little recourse. It is typical for credit reports to be filled with unacceptable errors that are difficult for consumers to correct.” 

But critics of the legislation allege the bill would make dramatic changes that could have negative repercussions on consumers, with top Republicans arguing they should work to find a bipartisan solution on reforms to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

“This is a Democrat bill under the guise of consumer protection that will destroy the accuracy and completeness of consumer credit files. This will lead to a weaker financial system, undermining a great deal of safety and soundness that we have built up over decades,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, said during floor debate. 

“This will, in essence, socialize credit scoring and therefore credit allocation. And, look, this is an election year. I see that. And I see that not just in the rhetoric here in the house, but in the legislation that’s before us today. This bill will weaken underwriting standards. It will make credit a riskier activity both impacting the cost and accessibility of credit for all Americans.“

The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled upper chamber. 

Tags Maxine Waters Patrick McHenry

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