2 Major Credit Bureaus Owe Consumers $17.6 Million. Do You Qualify?

Credit reporting agencies
AP Photo/Mike Stewart

The Big Three.

Not the automobile manufacturers. Not the World War II leading trio (for you history buffs). Not a band. Not a football division (try 10 and 12 on that one).

In our Penny Hoarding world, the big three are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — the three largest credit reporting agencies.

Two of these credit reporting agencies have screwed up — to the tune of more than $17.6 million.

And if you were affected, you might be able to get your hands on some of that money.

TransUnion and Equifax Facing Major Fines

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has fined TransUnion for two violations, and Equifax for three uh-ohs.

Here’s the breakdown.

1. Misrepresenting credit scores

FICO scores are the best known and most widely used among lenders, reports our contributor Sarah Kuta. It’s not a credit reporting agency, but FICO uses information from those all three to calculate a score.

Consumers who bought scores from TransUnion received VantageScores, according to the CFPB. Equifax provided consumers with its own Equifax Credit Score.

Neither of these numbers are typically used in credit decisions.

2. Signing up unknowing consumers for paid subscription programs

Each agency advertised its services for free — or for $1. (By the way, there are plenty of opportunities to get free credit scores.)

“In reality, consumers who signed up received a free trial of seven or 30 days, after which they were automatically enrolled in a subscription program,” the agency said in its news release

Unless folks canceled during the trial, they began getting charged $16 or more — per month. No part of this process was “clearly and conspicuously disclosed,” the CFPB said.

3. Exposing consumers to advertisements

This was Equifax’s bad.

The mogul also violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires agencies to provide a free report once a year and to do so on the Annual Credit Report website, according to the CFPB.

Up until January 2014, those who opted for their free report through Equifax were forced to view advertisements before receiving a score, which totally violates the law.

Did the TransUnion and Equifax Mistakes Affect You?

TransUnion’s violations have been going on since at least July 2011 and have affected approximately 700,000 consumers. Equifax violated laws between July 2011 and March 2014; the CFPB did not report the number of people affected.

Now, the agencies must pay more than $17.6 million to affected customers — $13.9 million from TransUnion and $3.8 million from Equifax.

If you’re one of these affected customers, you should get a notification letter in the mail. The companies have 60 days to make a plan, then consumers should expect to get word on the specifics.

On top of that big ole payout, the companies will pay $5.5 million total in penalties — plus make major changes to their operations.

Your Turn: Were you affected by these credit reporting agencies?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.