Equifax Inc. is one of the top three consumer credit reporting agencies, including Experian and TransUnion. Founded in 1899 as Retail Credit Company, by 1920 it had offices in the United States and Canada, and by the 1960’s protected millions of credit histories. It changed it’s name from Retail Credit Company to Equifax in 1975 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange as EFX. It is a Standard and Poors (S&P) 500 company. The company corporate headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia but it has over 4000 employees in 13 countries and reports $1.4 billion in revenue.
Equifax has had its share of criticism and has been fined by the Federal Trade Commission twice for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In the years prior to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the criticism involved the extensive and invasive nature of the information that Equifax was gathering about consumers. At this point it was still called Retail Credit Company, and it gathered and sold information, whether true or rumor regarding private information such as marital status, employment history, sex life and political affiliation. Additional criticism occurred because of allegations that they were not only encouraging their employees to obtain this information by any means necessary, but they were also willing to sell it to anyone willing to pay.
This complaints and the advent of computerized records led to a hearing by the U.S. Congress on the subject of consumer information: what can be obtained and who it can be provided to. As a result the Fair US Credit Reporting Act was enacted in an effort to protect consumers from unlawful gathering of private and inappropriate information, as well as providing rules for the release of this information.
Equifax has been fined twice by the Federal Trade Commission for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The first instance involved all three major credit reporting companies (Equifax,Experian, and Transunion) for an amount of $2.5 million dollars for charges that they were not providing customer service during phone call inquiries for information and copies of a consumer’s credit report. Apparently they did not learn their lesson as Equifax was again fined the sum of $250,000 for identical infractions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Recently Equifax introduced a 3-1 Monitoring System. For $12.95 a month, consumers will receive monitoring of their credit report for all three major credit agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion; automated and customized alert notification of changes to any of these three credit agency reports; unlimited access to their Equifax Credit Report; $20,000 Identity Theft Insurance policy with no deductible although certain limitations and exclusions apply and a customer service center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Several different additional services, like Score Power, are also available and vary in type and cost from $8.95-$39.95. ScorePower is one such service which provides access to your FICO or “credit” score (not all reports provide your score, just a listing of creditors and financial information); and explanation of that your score means, how credit lenders see your credit information; a comparison of your score and the ability to use the Equifax online dispute feature free to dispute errors on your credit report. An “Interactive Score Simulator” is also available allowing you to virtually determine how your future financial decisions (buy a house, car or add a credit card) may affect your credit score.
Some consumers may feel that the price of $12.95 a month ($155.40/year)
is not a good value for the money and services offered. Consumers should take into consideration that one free three agency credit report is available to them each year, however additional reports may cost approximately $10.00 each. The Equifax service does offer some advantages such as customization, wireless alerts, identity theft insurance and convenience.
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