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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

3rd Circuit says defendants conducted reasonable investigations into FCRA claims

Courts Appellate Third Circuit FCRA Consumer Finance Consumer Reporting Agency


On November 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of defendants in an FCRA reasonable investigation suit. According to the opinion, the plaintiff obtained a credit card from one of the defendants, exceeded her credit limit, and was past due on payments. Another of the defendants (furnishing defendant) acquired her account and reported the outstanding debt to the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Plaintiff disputed the tradeline as inaccurate with two of the CRAs claiming several alleged inaccuracies, including that the date the account was opened and the original balance were inaccurate, and the payment history was incomplete, among other things. The CRAs notified the furnishing defendant of the disputes, and the furnishing defendant conducted an investigation in accordance with its FCRA dispute policies and procedures, which revealed that the account status, payment history, current balance, amount past due, and account number were accurate. Discrepancies in the spelling of the plaintiff’s name and street address were corrected however. It was not until after the plaintiff sued the defendants for violations of the FCRA that she asserted the furnishing defendant should have been aware she was enrolled in a credit protection program and that it was therefore liable for the original creditor’s failure to apply the program’s benefits to her credit card account. The opinion noted that the plaintiff also filed a “similarly vague dispute” against a student loan servicer for allegedly misreporting information about her account with the CRAs.

In agreeing with the district court, the 3rd Circuit concluded that summary judgment in favor of the defendants was properly granted as the plaintiff “failed to introduce any direct or circumstantial evidence” showing either of the defendants failed to “conduct reasonable investigations with respect to the disputed information.” Additionally, the plaintiff’s disputes were vague and failed to provide specifics as to the alleged errors or explain why the information was inaccurate or incomplete. “To the extent that [plaintiff] claims that the investigations were unreasonable because a reasonable investigation would have revealed the inaccuracies alleged, her conclusory assertion is insufficient to defeat summary judgment,” the appellate court wrote.