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Senate Reg-Relief Package Includes Important Credit Reporting Provisions

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee passed a financial regulatory relief bill (S. 2155) in December 2017 aimed at reducing regulatory burdens on community banks, credit unions and smaller regional banks.  Committee Chairman Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), sponsored the bill, which has strong bipartisan support, with 23 cosponsors (11 Republicans and 12 Democrats and an independent). The package is likely to be considered by the full Senate in early 2018.

The legislation includes two provisions related to consumer credit reporting.  Both were adopted, in part, in reaction to the Equifax data breach. As the bill moves through the legislative process during 2018, it will be important for all participants in the consumer credit ecosystem to be aware of the potential changes in law. One provision deals with fraud alerts and credit freezes for consumers and the other deals with how medical debt is processed for veterans who seek medical treatment outside the VA system.

Credit Freezes

The bill amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide consumers with the ability to freeze/unfreeze credit files maintained by nationwide credit reporting agencies at no cost, and would extend the time period for initial fraud alerts from 90 days to one year. The credit freeze provisions would also establish a process for parents and guardians to place a freeze on the file of a minor at no cost. The bill would require the nationwide credit reporting agencies to create webpages with information on credit freezes, fraud alerts, active duty alerts and pre-screen opt-outs and these pages would be linked to the FTC’s existing website, www.IdentityTheft.gov.  The credit freeze and minor freeze provisions would preempt State laws and create a national standard.

Protections for Veterans

The bill also incorporates a provision that would prohibit credit bureaus from including debt for health-care related services that the veteran received through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Choice Program. The provision would cover debt that the veteran incurred in the previous year, as well as any delinquent debt that was fully paid or settled.

The legislation would require a consumer reporting agency to delete medical debt if it receives information from either the veteran or the VA that the debt was incurred through the Veteran’s Choice Program.

What’s next

The bill now awaits consideration before the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the bill is a “candidate for early consideration” in 2018, but the exact timing of floor debate has yet to be scheduled. Once the package passes the Senate, it will need to be reconciled with the regulatory relief package that was passed by the House last spring.