Too many Ohioans are still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial crisis —particularly on their credit scores.
More than 50 million consumers saw their credit scores plunge more than 20 points during the worst days of the crisis, from 2008 to 2009. Many still haven’t fully recovered.
To make matters worse, one-in-five consumers has an error on his or her credit report. These errors can have serious consequences. Today credit scores are being used more than ever, and often for non-credit purposes, like employment and rental housing. Inaccurate scores can lead to Ohioans being given incorrect interest rates or no credit at all.
We know that these issues are frustrating too many Ohioans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created after the crisis to be a voice for consumers in our financial system, and together, debt collection and credit reporting made up the majority of the complaints the CFPB received from consumers over the past year.
Since the CFPB opened its doors, 20,000 Ohio consumers have filed complaints with the Bureau – and roughly 8,000 of those were about debt collection and credit reporting.
We need to ensure that credit scores are accurate, and that errors and old debt aren’t compounding the problem.
Millions of Americans are haunted by debts they have already paid or discharged, yet that continue to appear on their credit reports—so-called “zombie debts.” While a bankruptcy remains on a credit file for up to 10 years, the debt erased by the bankruptcy should be removed from the file once it’s discharged.
That’s why last week I introduced the Consumer Reporting Fairness Act. It would require creditors to ensure that debts discharged in bankruptcy show a zero balance on the consumer’s credit report in an accurate and timely manner.
This will ensure that debts prior to bankruptcy aren’t, in effect, double-counted and don’t continue to haunt Ohioans looking for jobs, apartments, and home loans. We also know that debt collectors are too often going after debt that is not owed, often in abusive ways. This bill will put a stop to that harassment.
Foreclosures already wreaked havoc on consumers’ credit scores during the crisis. We need to make it easier for Americans to get back on their feet with commonsense reforms like this.
Sherrod Brown is an Ohio Senator and weekly columnist.