Who owns the credit bureaus?

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who owns the credit bureaus

When thinking about credit bureaus many may believe that government agencies own these bureaus, however, that is not the case. Similarly, to other businesses, these bureaus are privately owned and are operated for profit. 

These bureaus are not government-mandated. However, they are closely regulated by federal agencies due to the impact these bureaus have on consumers’ financial statuses. Let’s find out who owns the credit bureaus and how they are regulated.

What do credit bureaus do?

Credit bureaus are financial institutions that compile your credit history to determine your credit score. This information is crucial for credit issuers and lenders in order to make decisions about your creditworthiness. 

Your credit score, which is somewhere in the range of 300 to 850, shows lenders how likely you are to pay your loans on time and whether or not you are a risk to lend credit to. These bureaus collect this information through your payment history and other records on your credit accounts. 

What are the 3 major credit bureaus?

There are three main credit bureaus that dictate your credit score. These three bureaus include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Although they are three separate companies, lenders typically utilize one or two of these bureau’s credit reports when overlooking your credit score. 

Equifax

Equifax was founded in 1899 by Cator and Guy Woolford in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, this company now caters to more than 88 million businesses and individuals in over 24 countries. Equifax has a slightly different approach than the other bureaus when it comes to categorizing your credit history. 

This company divides a consumer’s accounts into groupings of open and closed. This is so lenders can more thoroughly see which accounts relate to current credit data. Additionally, Equifax breaks down a consumer’s credit information from revolving accounts, mortgages, types of loans, consumer statements, public records, and more. 

Equifax calculates its consumer’s credit score based on credit utilization, payment history, types of accounts, and length of credit history. Additionally, this credit bureau typically provides an 81-month thorough credit history report for lenders to view. However, due to Equifax’s data breach in 2017, which affected over 147 million Americans, the bureaus have been less popular amongst lenders.  

Experian 

Unlike Equifax, Experian’s historical roots go back to 1862 in London, England. As the company expanded over time, it now reaches over 1 billion people and businesses in over 37 countries. Experian, similarly to the other bureaus, creates credit reports detailing their consumers’ credit habits. 

However, Experian calculates their credit score by a consumer’s outstanding debt, the number of late payments, age of open accounts, and types of accounts opened. Additionally, the credit model they use to calculate your credit score is the FICO credit model. 

Compared to the other bureaus, Experian tends to be more thorough in tracking their consumer’s credit history due to updating recent credit searches. This information they update monthly can regard basic credit information along with addresses, employment, and other inquiries. 

Additionally, what makes Experian different is that the company provides in-depth credit reports to reason the consumer’s credit score. This allows lenders who use their own credit models to score a consumer based on Experian’s report information. 

TransUnion

TransUnion, however, did not start out as a credit bureau. Initially, it was created in 1968 as a parent company to Union Tank Car Company and officially got recognized as a credit bureau in 1969. Based in Chicago, Illinois, TransUnion now has a reach of over one billion individual consumers in over 30 countries. 

TransUnion uses the VantageScore credit model when calculating its credit score. Although this service is more expensive than Experian and Equifax when it comes to credit reports, TransUnion’s information is updated daily. 

Additionally, this company has active fraud alerts and fraud resolution services for consumers that may have fallen victim to this. Consumers are also able to access their credit report at any time that is free of charge, whereas the remaining bureaus’ charge per report is typically pulled. 

Are credit bureaus government agencies? 

As stated above, credit bureaus are not government agencies. These are private companies that are governed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Additionally, under federal law, these three bureaus are required to provide their consumers with one free credit report each year. This ensures that these individuals know their credit score and financial standing.

Are credit bureaus regulated?

These three bureaus are highly regulated due to the impact credit score has on lenders when issuing a consumer credit. While being governed by the CFPB and FTC, these bureaus are subjected to laws under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

This act ensures the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information are protected within these credit bureaus. Some key points this Act reinforces in your credit report is:

  • Disputing incorrect information
  • Bureaus being transparent about what is in your credit report
  • Accessibility to your credit information
  • Requires anyone seeking someone’s credit report to be legally permissible

If a creditor fails to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act laws, they are subject to substantial penalties. The FTC would require compensatory damages per violation done by the creditor. 

Who regulates credit bureaus?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus (CFPB) are the two federal agencies charged with overseeing and enforcing the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

The FTC is the United States’ main consumer protection agency by ensuring that deceptive and fraudulent practices are not occurring. Additionally, the CFPB enforces that federal consumer financial laws are regarded by lenders within the financial marketplace.  

Importance of the credit bureaus 

These bureaus play a crucial part for financial institutions when it comes to lending decisions. All three of these agencies collect, store, and calculate your credit history to ensure that this data is accurate and fair. 

By providing lenders with your credit report, these institutions are able to determine your creditworthiness and adjust the terms of this credit agreement. For example, your credit score can have a huge impact when it comes to applying for loans, credit cards, mortgages, phone bills, and much more. Due to this, credit bureaus are extremely important within the financial industry. 

Understanding Credit Bureaus

Credit is an integral part of the financial marketplace. Understanding the three credit bureaus and what differentiates them is crucial when it comes to your credit score. Each bureau approaches their credit modeling scores differently.

This may explain why your score may fluctuate. Overall, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax all ensure that as a consumer your credit information provided is accurate, fair, and protected.

FAQ

What are the laws on credit reporting?

The law that protects consumers within the credit reporting industry is the Fair Credit Report Act. This Act is regulated and enforced by the FTC and CFPB.

Who governs the credit bureaus?

The two government agencies that govern the three credit bureaus are the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Are credit bureaus private companies?

Yes, credit bureaus are private companies that operate for profit.

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