Are lenders required to report to the credit bureaus?

judgmentsRepeat after me…There isn’t a law that requires lenders to report to the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  It’s entirely voluntary. And, the credit bureaus can pick and choose with whom they want to do business.  There is no “right” to either pulling data from or providing data to the credit bureaus.

Lenders and other parties depend on the information on the credit reports to make decisions, and the more complete and accurate they are, the better.  As a result, companies choose to contribute the information and rely on others that do the same.

Some of the reasons a lender would want to report is they can use as leverage that their late payments will be reported, which can hurt their credit. Another is that the credit bureaus usually give them discounts on credit reports for contributing information.

There are also reasons why they don’t want to report.  Some lenders don’t want to provide their information for fear of other companies stealing their customers.   If they do report, they have to provide accurate information and respond to disputes regarding errors. This requires additional staff and legal obligations.  The data has to programmed in a specific format required by the credit bureaus.

Most nationwide lenders report to the all three of the credit bureaus.  These include credit card issuers (bankcard, retail card and oil), mortgage lenders, auto lenders, finance companies, banks, credit unions, and student lenders.  In addition, third party collection agencies and a limited number of public record types (bankruptcies, liens and judgments) are reported. Some regional and local lenders don’t report at all or may just report to one of the credit bureaus. This explains one of the reasons why credit reports are not the same across bureaus and why your credit scores differ.

Industries that don’t typically report

Not every industry reports to the credit bureaus.  Those that don’t traditionally report are rental, utilities, pay day lenders, rent to own, insurance, and medical. Experian is the only credit bureau that reports rental information on their credit reports.  Financial institutions don’t report checking, savings and investment information.  You will only see information from these industries when you fail to pay your bills and are sent or sold to a third party collection agency. This information is reported under the collection agency, not the original lender.

You can request a lender that does not report to the credit bureaus to do so and also request the credit bureau to report the information.  Unfortunately, you don’t have any legal muscle behind it to do so.

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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