Is it a Violation of Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) For a Debt Collector to Access a Credit Report Post-Discharge?
Yes, according to a recent decision out of the United States District Court in Indiana. The FCRA prohibits obtaining a credit report on a debtor unless it is “for a purpose for which the [credit] report is authorized”. Debt collection has been held to be a permissible reason for obtaining a credit report. Generally, a debt collector can obtain a consumer’s credit report if the debt collector has “reason to believe'“ that the consumer owes the debt. In Buckley v. Afni, the court held that once discharge in bankruptcy has occurred there is no legal purpose - i.e.,reasonable belief that a debt existed - for accessing a debtor’s credit report. The question of reasonableness of the belief that the debt existed is a question of fact. In Buckley, the collector maintained it did not know that the debtor’s DIRECTV account debt had been discharged because of the address on the account and the debtor’s address were different. the court did not buy this argument because there was other information associated with the account - e.g., social security number, debtor’s name, and her DIRECTV account number - that would easily have provided the collector the requisite notice that the debt had been discharged.
Authored by: Bruce W. Akerly, Partner