Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Emotional Distress Worth $150,000

Via I've Been Mugged, we find that the Fourth Circuit has recently upheld the liability of Equifax for failing to correct errors in a credit report caused by identity theft (the case, Sloane v. Equifax, can be found here). In general, this isn't groundbreaking stuff. After all, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to remove errors from consumer files, and gives consumers the right to sue for damages if they don't. What is interesting in the Fourth Circuit's decision though, is what they did with Equifax's liability. Originally, the trial court had awarded the plaintiff $106,000 in economic damages for Equifax's violation of the law, and $245,000 for pain and suffering. The Fourth Circuit however, felt that this award was out of line with the damages which had been awarded in other FCRA cases, and libel cases, which are similar in that individuals claim damage based on false statements made about them. The result? The Fourth Circuit decided that the plaintiff was entitled to no more than $150,000 and number which, while clearly based on the facts of the particular case will undoubtedly be used as a guideline in future cases determining damages under the FCRA.

1 comment:

Jack E. Dunning said...

Here’s another slant on problems with credit bureaus, a situation many privacy advocates feel has gotten out of hand. I am a customer of Experian’s Credit Manager, a paid service I have maintained for over 25 years. Back in 2006, my credit report mysteriously vanished from the system, not to be located by even top Experian and Credit Manager officials. And then my credit report returned, again mysteriously, about two months later without a peep from anyone at Experian or Credit Manager. As if it had never really happened. The reason I use the term mysterious is that the timing was somewhat coincidental with some earlier posts I did on my privacy blog criticizing credit bureaus for their abysmal customer service, specifically mentioning Experian. In all there were 14 e-mails and more telephone calls than I can remember, none of which resulted in any resolution from a staff so incompetent it is incomprehensible they hold their jobs. It is time for information companies like Equifax, Experian, ChoicePoint, etc. to realize that they exist only because of consumers’ personal data, and if they don’t start playing by the rules, the public might just band together and take it back.

Jack E. Dunning
Cave Creek, AZ