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Could You Spell That For Me? Court Grapples With FCRA Implications Of The Surname “E”

In Maria E  v. Experian, 2018 WL 2085221 (E.D. KY Feb 27, 2018), the court examined Experian’s inability to provide a credit report for a plaintiff with the last name “E,” and ultimately found that, because Experian never provided a credit report for this person, it could not be liable under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).

Plaintiff had been through a number of name changes.  She was born Maria Kalla, but at various times was legally known as Maria Moore, Maria Morand, Maria E. (with a period), and finally, Maria E (with no period).  She initially complained to Experian in 2008 that it was not reporting her credit.  Experian responded that it “does not support the use of a single name or a single initial for a surname.”  The court explained further that Experian “has devised a system which accounts for the sometimes inconsistent manner in which consumers and data furnishers use or report identifying information (including parts of a name, typographical errors, etc.) by requiring a minimum of two letters for a consumer’s surname length.”

By 2016, Plaintiff was attempting to establish a good credit history.  TransUnion and Equifax were reporting her, but Experian was not.  She complained directly to Experian and also filed a complaint with the CFPB.  Experian continued to respond that it “does not support the use of a single name or a single initial for a surname.” Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, claiming a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).

The court noted that 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) creates a private cause of action, “[w]henever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report” if it fails to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” in preparing the report.  Therefore, the court reasoned, in order to state a claim, Maria E would need to show that Experian reported inaccurate information about her. That never happened.   The court cited to the 11th Circuit: “[W]ithout a consumer report, there is no duty under the [FCRA] to follow reasonable procedures,” Smith v. First Nat’l Bank of Atlanta, 837 F.2d 1575, 1578 (11th Cir. 1988).  Therefore,  Experian’s inability to report Maria E’s credit did not violate § 1681e(b) of the FCRA.

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About this Author

John Hawk Attorney Womble Bond Litigator
Partner

John Hawk is a skilled litigator with over a decade of experience serving the complex and diverse litigation needs of Fortune 500 companies and smaller lenders. He focuses his practice on consumer finance, lender liability and insurance.

Specifically, John routinely defends cases brought pursuant to ERISA, FCRA, TCPA and FDCPA. His clients include life and disability insurance companies, banks and other lenders, and mortgage servicers.

John’s experience includes frequent appearances in state and federal courts, including the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the Supreme...

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