The Evolving World of Consumer Credit Reports

Public Record Data Changes to Credit Reporting on July 1st

It’s shaping up to be a better year than expected for the credit reports of hundreds of thousands of American consumers.

A recently completed study of millions of credit files by credit score giant FICO found that forthcoming policy changes by the nation’s three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—will result in increased credit scores for a large swath of American consumers. While the FICO study found that the majority of consumers likely won’t see any noticeable change in their credit scores resulting from revised credit reports, it also reported that hundreds of thousands of consumers could experience an even larger-than-initially expected bump in their credit scores—as much as 40-60 points, or more.

The changes to credit scores resulting from the credit bureau policy shifts are the end result of a legal agreement reached with a number of state attorneys general; commencing next month, the credit bureaus will no longer collect—and report—public information on almost all civil judgments, and approximately half of all tax liens. Consumer advocates have long raised questions about the accuracy of those public records; the credit bureaus are acceding to those demands for change with the removal of that data from consumer credit reports.

Historically, where can i buy viagra over the counter data points such as tax liens and civil judgments have often negatively affected consumers’ credit reports. Consumer advocates have long argued that both categories carry with them a high rate of errors, resulting in credit reports that ultimately lowered the credit scores of many consumers nationwide. Given the critically important role that credit reports and credit scores play in peoples’ lives—helping decide if they are deemed employable or a ‘good risk’ for lenders—any change affecting credit reports has the potential to be significant and carry with them many ramifications.

Consumer advocates have long argued that credit scores favored certain demographics and ethnicities because of the perceived ‘unfairness’ of some of the information used to construct the reports.

On the other side of the argument, however, some lenders have worried that excluding some financial history information—such as civil judgments and tax liens—may deprive lenders of requisite information needed to gather a complete picture of a potential borrower. Some concerned lenders argue that, while there may be some incorrect information included on some reports, it’s an indisputable fact that some borrowers do have accurate judgments and liens as part of their credit history.

However, the recent FICO study—which examined large samplings of credit histories provided by the credit bureaus—estimates that somewhere between 12 and 14 million Americans have judgments, or tax liens, that could be affected by these rule changes. The study also estimates that somewhere between 1 and 2 million consumers could see their credit scores increase by 20-39 points; even more significantly, changes to the credit reports could translate into more than 300,000 consumers experiencing a FICO score increase of 60 points or more.

Still, the FICO study also reported that the current median credit score is 565, and that even adding a few points to many credit scores, as a result of improved credit histories, may not make a significant difference when lenders consider who is–and is not–a good ‘risk’ for a mortgage loan.

Ironically, the FICO study found that those who stand to benefit the most from the improved credit history are those who already have fairly good FICO scores; the FICO study estimates that individuals with relatively positive credit histories—barring an errant tax lien or judgment—are most likely to see an improvement of 40 points or more, and will likely number around 700,000 consumers.

As is the case with many rules, regulations and laws affecting the lending industry in 2017, the full impact of the new credit report policies remains to be seen. However, as the recent FICO study indicates, the impact of the new criteria for compiling consumers’ credit histories carries the potential to significantly affect both the lending industry and—at a minimum—hundreds of thousands of its potential customers nationwide.