The nation's top financial consumer protection regulator called on banks to give people free access to their credit scores, a move that would shake up the entire credit reporting industry.
Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, called for free sharing of credit scores after the CFPB released a report on the prevalence of errors in credit reports and scores.
Consumers are allowed one free look at their credit reports annually at AnnualCreditReport.com, but credit scores generally cost money. And while the scores are based on the data contained in credit reports, few consumers take advantage of the free offer. Only one-fifth of U.S. adults look at their credit reports every year, the bureau said.
Cordray said that disclosing credit scores to consumers would make them more likely to spend time examining their credit report, particularly if the scores are low. In a letter dated Feb. 10 and released Thursday, he called on credit card issuers to make scores available to consumers, potentially as part of monthly bills.
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"We need to get more Americans to pay closer attention to their credit standing, which would benefit lenders, consumers, and the national economy. You can now, relatively easily, help us achieve this goal," Cordray wrote to the banks.
"Although credit scores provide just a partial picture of one's finances, this could raise awareness of credit issues and prompt busy Americans to review their credit standing. If scores are lower than expected, more consumers may take the initiative to request their credit reports, address concerns, investigate errors or fraud-related entries, and improve negative aspects of their credit usage," he said.
The request comes as the CFPB released the latest in a long string of government and private reports calling attention to credit report errors. The agency said it received 31,000 complaints about credit reporting agencies between October 2012 and February 2014, with three-quarters of them related to incorrect information.