One of the dirty little secrets about the credit-reporting industry is how it profits from consumers' pain - even when its own practices are among the causes. Now Mississippi's attorney general, Jim Hood, has brought that issue to the forefront, with a lawsuit that accuses Experian of "knowingly including error-riddled data in the credit files of millions of Americans," according to this AP report, and then turning around and selling costly "credit monitoring" services to the same people to protect them from harm.
"Experian has turned its failures to maintain accurate credit reports and its refusal to investigate consumer disputes into a business opportunity," Hood said said in a statement. Hood, a Democrat, filed the suit quietly last month in state court - much of it sealed or redacted from the public record as propriietar. It was moved to federal court last week. The AP reports:
Despite the errors added to credit files, the Mississippi lawsuit said, Experian provides no straightforward way for consumers to correct erroneous blemishes affecting them. When consumers file a dispute, Experian reflexively finds in favor of the bank or debt collector that reported the debt, Mississippi said. And when consumers call to complain, the lawsuit said Experian employees attempt to sell consumers credit monitoring products of questionable value.
That's the piece of this story that, as a consumer columnist, I've always found most outrageous. One source of credit-file errors is identity theft, where a bad guy gets instant access to credit in your name, and then - big surprise! - doesn't pay his bills. It only works because the credit reporting agencies are happy to sell reports and scores with as little friction as possible - such as the PIN number required if you institute a security freeze on your credit file.