"The FTC's research determined that 2.2 percent of all credit reports have an error that would increase the price a consumer would pay in the marketplace and that fully 88 percent of errors were the result of inaccurate information reported by lenders and other data sources to nationwide credit bureaus," the association said in a statement.
The association is right. But when you talk about the millions of files being kept, there are still quite a number of people with incorrect information in their reports. The FTC concluded that the impact of errors on credit scores is generally modest (an average of an 11.8-point increase in score), but for some consumers, it can be large.
"Roughly 1 percent of the reports in the sample experienced a credit score increase of more than 50 points," the report said.
Several consumer advocacy groups feel that this conclusion confirms their long-held concerns about the accuracy of credit reports.
Because the credit bureaus have become powerful gatekeepers, you ought to care about this issue even if you haven't found errors in your report, said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
"If 5 percent of consumers overall have serious errors, that's about 10 million adults. Sooner or later, it will happen to you," he said.
Everyone with a stake in this issue urges consumers to take action by pulling their reports every year. Only about 44 million consumers per year, or about one in five, obtain copies of their files, according to another recent report. You have the right to get a free copy of each of your credit files once every 12 months. Just go to www.annuacreditreport.com, the only official site, to get them.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The federal government needs to do more to monitor the systems the bureaus have in place to investigate a consumer's complaint about an error. Far too often the furnishers of the data will just resend the incorrect information back to the bureaus.