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Ninth Circuit weighs in on FCRA requirement that disputes come ‘directly’ from consumers

In Trinity Warner v. Experian (link), the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s summary judgment in favor of Experian, finding that dispute letters sent to Experian by a “credit repair agency,” Go Clean Credit LLC, were not “direct” communications from the consumer, and therefore did not trigger a duty to reinvestigate under Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Section 1681i of FCRA provides that consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) such as Experian must “conduct a reasonable reinvestigation” when an item in the consumer’s credit file “is disputed by the consumer and the consumer notifies the agency directly . . .
of such dispute.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1)(A).

The Ninth Circuit focused on the word “directly,” and found that dispute letters sent by Go Clean Credit LLC on behalf of the consumer were not sufficiently direct.  The customer testified that he did not review the dispute letters, did not identify the items to be disputed, and “played no role in preparing the letters at all.” As such, the Ninth Circuit agreed that Experian’s decision not to reinvestigate did not equate to a violation of FCRA.

The Ninth Circuit limited the opinion to “the facts before us,” but the opinion is a must-read for credit repair companies.

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About this Author

John Hawk Attorney Womble Bond Litigator

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...