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How To Sue Credit Bureaus For Statutory Damages

In a recent case, Omar Santos et al. v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that consumers DO NOT have to prove actual damages to recover statutory damages for willful violations of the FCRA.

In the case, the plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit where they sought to recover damages because their credit reports contained errors for tradelines for debts reported to Experian by a collector of medical debts "Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC".

The account in question contained inaccurate "status dates" - which is the "Date Last Active" on the account (if looking at an IdentityIQ report).

The lawsuit alleges that Experian willfully violated its obligation under the FCRA to follow "reasonable procedures" to ensure that credit reports were prepared with "maximum possible accuracy" 15USC 1681e(b). They sought damages "of no less than $100 and not more than $1,000" 15USC 1681n(a)(1)(A).

Experian argued that the provisions of the FCRA for willful violations requires the consumer to prove that they, 1) were denied credit and 2) incurred actual damages, as a result of the inaccuracies (erroneous status dates). And at first the 11th Circuit upheld Experians argument.

However, on appeal, the appellate court for the 11th Circuit disagreed and reversed the decision. Accordingly, it stated that, because violations of the FCRA "have a close relationship to the harm caused by publication of defamatory information," a consumer DOESN'T have to prove that the false reporting caused an injury because the false reporting itself is the injury.

Experian argued that the FCRA 15USC 1681n(a)(1)(a) "[1] any actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the violation or [2] damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000", only applies if the consumer can show actual damages and that damages under the second option are reserved for consumers who incur actual damages.

Again, the appellate court rejected this argument stating that the second option contains none of the requirements of the first option. That there are two separate provisions/alternatives here where the second option allows for statutory damages without proof of actual damages.

This is why I advocate for the "factual dispute method". Most negative accounts that consumers dispute to get removed contain inaccurate dates. Especially the "last report date" and the "date last active" (which you should always cross reference with the Two Year Payment History). Which means that you should definitely dispute this type of negative information.

What the credit bureaus do is, they will sometimes improperly update the "status dates" each month to display the current month. This is a huge error. It's what they call "re-aging" the account. Which impacts the debt clock on the account so that it never really begins the 7 year countdown from the proper date.

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