Julie Miller had been having trouble with her credit report. Lots of the information on it was wrong. Several collection agencies and past due accounts appeared which she had never heard of-- even her social security number and birthday were incorrect. Julie spent 2 years trying to correct the mistakes -- losing a home offer in the process -- before finally bringing a federal lawsuit against Equifax. The court punished Equifax with $18.4 million in punitive damages for its seemingly deliberate failure to right its many wrongs, plus $180,000 to compensate Julie for her myriad troubles.
Though credit reporting problems like Julie's are distressingly common, judgments like hers are downright unheard of. Equifax and its sisters Experian and TransUnion are notoriously inflexible bureaucracies systemically incapable of making informed decisions on a case-by-case basis, and their legally-required dispute system is mainly for show. Their joint monopoly on public credit reporting has provided them cover from any competition and allowed their rigidity to become the industry standard. The 9th Circuit, which will hear the certainly-forthcoming appeal, has an opportunity to hold accountable a credit reporting industry that is comfortably lagging decades behind the times. For now, one can only wish the court wisdom. And maybe write an amicus.
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