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Senate Bill 2155 approved by Congress and signed into law amending Dodd Frank Act and credit bureaus' FCRA requirements

On May 24, 2018, Congress passed the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act," with a stated purpose of improving consumer access to mortgage loans, increasing regulatory relief, and adding several protections for consumer credit access.

Within these protections, Sec. 301 and 302 specifically amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and implement three major modifications: (1) an increase in time for a consumer reporting agency (CRA) to submit a fraud alert; (2) a National Security Freeze process to protect consumer credit; and (3) a protection for veteran credit and active duty military consumer credit.

Amendments in Sec. 301 (related to consumer credit protection) go into effect on September 21, 2018; amendments in Sec. 302 (veteran credit protection) go into effect on May 24, 2019.

Sec. 301

This section increases consumer credit protection within the FCRA.

First, Sec. 301 amends Sec. 605A of the FCRA and allows a consumer one year to submit a fraud alert, notifying the nationwide credit bureaus that the consumer "has been or is about to be a victim of fraud." Previously, 605A only permitted 90 days for the consumer to submit a fraud alert.

Second, Sec. 301 implements a national security freeze that allows a consumer, free of charge, to prohibit credit bureaus from "disclosing the contents of a consumer report." The consumer must file a formal request and provide proper identification—proper identification is defined by Sec. 610 of the FCRA. The act specifies the standard timeframe and guidelines by which a credit bureaus must place the freeze, notify consumers of completion, and permanently or temporarily remove the freeze, if requested by the consumer. Nationwide credit bureaus must properly instruct consumers on how to remove a security freeze and must notify consumers of their "Right to Obtain a Security Freeze," when required by Sec. 609 of the FCRA.

Consumers have direct control over placing and removing a security freeze, however, the act specifies certain exceptions when the security freeze will not apply. For example, a security freeze shall not apply when a credit bureau must create a consumer report to pursue a person's financial obligations, evaluate a person's background for potential employment, or verify a person's identity for investigating potential fraud.

Additionally, credit bureaus are obligated to have an "established webpage" that informs consumers on how to request a security freeze, initial fraud alert, extended fraud alert, or active duty fraud alert. The webpage must also show consumers how to opt-out of their information being used in a consumer report for the purpose of credit solicitations. The act establishes a separate standard for "protected consumers" who are either under the age of 16 or considered an incapacitated person. The requirements are generally the same, however, protected consumers must follow separate identification requirements.

Sec. 302

This section increases veteran credit protection within the FCRA with respect to certain medical debts. The Act defines veteran medical debt as debt (1) owed to a health care provider, not within the Department of Veteran Affairs and (2) includes medical conditions wrongfully charged to a veteran.

Sec. 302 requires nationwide credit bureaus to exclude certain information from consumer reports in order to comply with Sec. 605(a) of the FCRA. This information includes any medical care or service relating to the debt which "antedates the report by less than 1 year" and information related to a veteran's fully paid, settled, or charged off medical debt.

The legislation amends Sec. 611 of the FCRA to implement a removal process of inaccurate medical information and to create a standard for verifying a veteran's medical debt. This verification process requires the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to establish a database that verifies veteran medical debt; the database must be established by May 24, 2019.

Finally, Sec. 302 requires the credit bureaus to provide "free electronic credit monitoring" to any active duty military consumer, including members of the National Guard, that will notify the consumer of any changes to his or her consumer file.

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