What is a Consumer Report under FCRA?

Last updated Jan 13, 2020

Disclaimer: This website is neither an exhaustive summary of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) nor legal advice for you to use in complying with it. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the FCRA and how it can apply to your business. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so you should consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. You may not rely on this paper as legal advice, nor as an endorsement of any particular legal understanding.

There are three requirements, including a creator, content, and a purpose requirement that must be met before a report can be considered a consumer report.

  • Consumer reports must be done by a Consumer Reporting Agency.
  • A consumer report is any written, oral or other communication of any information by a Consumer Reporting Agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.
  • A consumer report is a report expected to be used or collected in whole or part for the purpose of serving as a factor used in establishing the consumers eligibility for credit or insurance used primarily for personal, family, household, or employment purposes.

Examples of consumer reporting agencies include Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian (known as the National Credit Reporting Agencies), background screeners, and tenant/background screeners. Information must pertain to a consumer/individual and not entities, corporations, or partnerships. Information also applies to both private and public data. Consumer reporting agencies do not have direct transactions or experiences with applicants and information is not on a firsthand basis. CRAs get their information from third-parties and thus are not the originating source of information.

Reports including personal knowledge or firsthand interaction, reports made among persons under common control, and reports other than credit (including skip tracing, law enforcement, dating, and laboratory reports) are not consumer reports. Information collected from internet providers, which collect “header data” consisting purely of identifying information from sources like public records, mailing lists, surveys, public social media profiles, etc., are also not considered consumer reports.

Information excluded from consumer reports further include:

  • Arrest records more than 7 years old.
  • Items of adverse information, except criminal convictions older than 7 years.
  • Negative credit data, civil judgments, paid tax liens, and/or collections accounts older than 7 years. Time limits apply only to “negative” information about consumers as favorable information never goes stale. Time limits apply only to CRAs.
  • End-users can use “stale data” (older than 7 years) if information is obtained from a source other than a CRA.

Continue to A summary of consumer rights under FCRA, or jump to a different article.

  1. Fundamentals of The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  2. Industry Players Under FCRA
  3. Accuracy and Reasonable Procedures
  4. FCRA Permissible Purpose
  5. Adverse Action Notification
  6. Reinvestigation, Disclosures, Disposal of Consumer Information
  7. What is a Consumer Report?
  8. A summary of consumer rights under FCRA
  9. FCRA Litigation
  10. State Versions of FCRA and FCRA California