Proposed FCRA Liability Harmonization Act Seeks to Limit Consumer Remedies in Class Action Suits and Bring Consistency to Consumer Laws
On May 4, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) introduced legislation that would limit the damages consumers could be awarded in class actions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and eliminate the availability of punitive damages in such cases. As set forth in a May 8 press release issued by Rep. Loudermilk’s office, the FCRA Liability Harmonization Act (H.R. 2359) would “protect the right of consumers to pursue statutory damages and the right to just compensation for actual harm.” Rep. Loudermilk, a member of the Financial Services Committee, has argued that eliminating the availability of punitive damages and capping class action damages would enable FCRA to be consistent with other consumer protection laws such as TILA, FDCPA, ECOA, and EFTA, all of which have caps on punitive damages. A comment letter from 12 organizations in the consumer financial services industry expressed support for the proposed measure on similar grounds. Among other things, the letter notes that the absence of a cap on class action recoveries under FCRA—which allows plaintiffs to pursue unlimited damages, including punitive damages and attorneys’ fees—forces businesses to settle suits over “technical” or “speculative” violations in order to avoid the danger of excessive damage awards. The proposed legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Edward Royce (R-Cal.), Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).