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Court Rules that in Determining Accuracy under the FCRA, the Entire Tradeline Must Be Considered

A recent case in the Northern District of Georgia confirms that when evaluating whether a tradeline in a consumer report is accurate, a court will consider the entire record in context and not focus on individual elements in isolation.  See Ellis v. Warehouse Home Furnishings Distribs., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 225572 (N.D. Ga. 2020).

The Plaintiff in this case contended that the Defendant inaccurately reported her tradeline to credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”).   Specifically, she alleged that Defendant inaccurately reported a scheduled monthly payment of $215 on her closed account, when Defendant should have been reporting a scheduled monthly payment of $0.00.  As a result, she claimed that Defendant committed negligent and willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the “FCRA”).  In its motion for summary judgment, Defendant argued that Plaintiff’s claims against it fail because the information provided to the CRAs was accurate.

In order for a court to grant summary judgment, the movant must show that “…. there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a).   A party arguing that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support that assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record.

The parties in this case agreed that they entered into a Retail Installment Contract/Security Agreement that required Plaintiff to make monthly payments in the amount of $215 for 24 months. They also agreed that Plaintiff purchased credit disability insurance for the loan, that she did not make all of the payments due, that she made a claim under the disability insurance, and that the insurance made a payment on Plaintiff’s behalf that left the loan with a zero balance.

The parties disagreed insofar as Plaintiff contended that the $215 notation shows a present monthly payment obligation, while Defendant argued that the $215 notation in the record is merely an accurate historical reference to the payment terms of the retail installment contract.

Reviewing the entire tradeline record, the court concluded that Plaintiff had not presented a fact dispute as to whether the tradeline reflected an ongoing monthly payment obligation of $215. The court noted that the $215 “Monthly Payment” notion must be viewed in the context of the entire record, which clearly reflected that the balance on the account was zero and that the account had been closed for quite some time. “Contrary to Ellis’s baseless argument, the report does not give the impression that there is any ongoing payment obligation. Ellis has provided no evidence whatsoever to support her contention that the reports should read differently than they do.”

Citing precedent that “… the mere inclusion of information about previous payment terms neither causes confusion nor creates an inaccuracy so as to maintain a claim under the FCRA,”[1] the court in this case granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, providing a helpful reminder that when facing claims of inaccurate reporting under the FCRA, furnishers and CRAs have strong arguments that tradelines and other records included in consumer reports must be considered in toto.

[1] Meeks v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 1:18-cv-3666-TWT-WEJ, 2019 WL 1856411, at *5-6 (N.D. Ga. Mar. 4, 2019) (holding that the inclusion of historic payment terms was insufficient to state a claim).

© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 344
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About this Author

Glenn Brown Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Atlanta., GA
Of Counsel

A senior member of our Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice Group, Glenn Brown provides business-oriented advice to clients in numerous industries on data privacy and regulatory compliance matters, including regulatory investigations and examinations. He has experience driving privacy and compliance priorities within organizations and providing strategic counsel regarding privacy, compliance and risk to support the growth and success of the business.

Glenn also has deep experience advising clients regarding compliance with many of the US...

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