Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jeff Gelles quoted Professor Jeff Sovern in his column, Big 3 clean up act, but credit agencies won’t win any love, earlier this week. The column, about a settlement between credit bureaus and the New York Attorney General’s Office, stated:
Will the credit agencies finally clean up their act . . . ? Consumer-policy experts such as Jeff Sovern, a law professor at St. John’s University, have lingering doubts, because of the credit bureaus’ unique position in the market.
* * * Sovern and Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, explained in a 2013 op-ed that creditors can actually benefit if certain kinds of disputes are never solved.
“For their part, lenders may benefit when credit bureaus report consumer defaults, even incorrectly, because such reports put pressure on consumers who wish to maintain good credit ratings to pay even disputed claims,” Sovern and Rheingold wrote – describing a problem I’ve heard about repeatedly from consumers, who say they paid a small bill they didn’t really owe to preserve their credit score.
Sovern and Rheingold wrote back then that “the marketplace can penalize credit bureaus that investigate too aggressively. Credit bureaus are heavily dependent on lenders for both revenue and the information the bureaus package and sell; if a credit bureau presses a lender too hard, the lender could patronize a different bureau and withhold data about its customers.” Sovern says now that since the new settlement applies to all three bureaus, that should be less of a problem. “We will see,” he says.