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In re Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 16, 2017

In Re Experian Information Solutions, Incorporated

          ORDER

          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff John McIntyre, (Doc. 243), and Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), (Doc. 245). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion and denies Plaintiff's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The thirty-one cases consolidated in this action all involve similar factual allegations. A consumer utilized the services of a “credit repair organization” (“CRO”) in an effort to improve his or her credit score. That CRO contacted Experian, a “consumer reporting agency” (“CRA”), and, purporting to act on behalf of the consumer, the CRO disputed the accuracy of certain items on the consumer's credit report. Rather than immediately investigate whether the disputed items were accurately reported, Experian notified the consumer that it had received suspicious correspondence that appeared to come from someone other than the consumer, and that Experian would not initiate a reinvestigation based on that correspondence.

         John McIntyre was one of those consumers, and the parties have designated him as the bellwether plaintiff. Much of the factual background of McIntyre's claim is not in dispute. On March 5, 2015, McIntyre, a resident of California, contacted Go Clean Credit LLC (“GCC”), a CRO, to assist him in improving his credit report. McIntyre and GCC entered into a written agreement, which purported to

grant[] GCC a limited power of attorney to write and send letters to creditors and credit bureaus on [McIntyre's] behalf and in [McIntyre's] name and to utilize either use [sic] [McIntyre's] electronic signature or for a GCC representative to sign the letters on [McIntyre's] behalf.

(Doc. 282 at 2.)[1]

         Initially, at GCC's direction, McIntyre sent a “personal information dispute letter.” (Doc. 248-2 at 23-27.) In this letter, McIntyre disputed the accuracy of certain items on his Experian credit report. (Doc. 248-2 at 471-76.) He signed the letter himself and mailed it himself from his California address. (Id.) There is no dispute that Experian received the letter, deleted an inaccurate item from the credit report and updated several others, and sent McIntyre a letter to this effect.

         From that point on, GCC handled all the correspondence. On or about March 18, 2015, GCC prepared a letter, addressed to Experian, disputing nine items on McIntyre's credit report. Experian has no record of receiving this letter; GCC asserts that there is evidence it was sent based on a line item in a computer record. (Doc. 282 at 3, Doc. 260 at 5).

         Another letter, sent by GCC, soon followed. This letter was prepared on or about April 20, 2015, and it again addressed certain items on McIntyre's credit report. On May 8, 2015, Experian sent McIntyre a letter stating in part:

Dear John McIntyre
We received a suspicious request in the mail regarding your personal credit report and determined that it was not sent by you. Suspicious requests are reviewed by Experian security personnel who work regularly with law enforcement officials and regulatory agencies to identify fraudulent and deceptive correspondence purporting to originate from consumers.
In an effort to safeguard your personal credit information from fraud, we will not be initiating any disputes based on the suspicious correspondence. Experian will apply this same policy to any future suspicious requests that we receive regarding your personal credit information, but we will not send additional notices to you of suspicious correspondence.

(Doc. 243-7 at 2.)

         This letter reflects Experian's policy of not investigating disputes that appear not to have been sent directly by a consumer. Experian investigates disputes that come directly from a consumer, but “generally speaking” does not process disputes that do not come directly from a consumer. (Doc. 283 at 8.)

         McIntyre's suit alleges that Experian's failure to immediately investigate the disputes sent by GCC violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) in two ways. He first alleges that Experian failed to fulfill its duty under the reinvestigation provision of the statute, which reads as follows:

[I]f the completeness or accuracy of any item of information contained in a consumer's file at a consumer reporting agency is disputed by the consumer and the consumer notifies the agency directly, or indirectly through a reseller, of such dispute, the agency shall, free of charge, conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the disputed information is inaccurate and record the current status of the disputed information, or delete the item from the file . . . before the end of the 30-day period beginning on the date in which the agency receives the notice of the dispute from the consumer or reseller.

15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1)(A).

         McIntyre also alleges violation of the reasonable procedures provision of the statute, which reads as follows:

Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.

15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).

         Each of McIntyre's two claims for relief alleges violations of both provisions. Count I of McIntyre's Amended Complaint alleges that Experian negligently violated both § 1681e(b) and § 1681i, while Count II ...


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