Maine federal district court rules FCRA preempts 2019 amendments to state’s credit reporting law

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A Maine federal district court ruled that that two 2019 amendments to Maine’s credit reporting law are preempted by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and granted the motion for judgment filed by the plaintiff, the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA).

One of the amendments prohibited a consumer reporting agency (CRA) from reporting medical debt on a consumer’s credit report until a delinquency was at least 180 days old.  Once a CRA received “reasonable evidence” that a medical debt had been settled or paid in full, the CRA could not report the debt and had to “remove or suppress” it from the consumer report.

The second amendment required a CRA to reinvestigate a debt if the consumer provided documentation that the debt was the result of “economic abuse.”  If the CRA found that the debt was the result of such abuse, it had to remove any reference to the debt from the consumer report.  “Economic abuse” was defined to mean “causing or attempting to cause an individual to be financially dependent by maintaining control over the individual’s financial resources” and included “unauthorized or coerced use of credit or property” and “stealing from or defrauding of money or assets.”

The district court concluded that the Maine amendments were preempted under the FCRA’s express preemption provision (15 U.S.C. 1681t(b)(1)(E)) which preempts state law “with respect to any subject matter regulated under…[15 U.S.C. 1681c], relating to information contained in consumer reports.”  15 U.S.C. 1681c, which is titled “Requirements relating to information contained in consumer reports,” includes a list of information that must be excluded from consumer reports (i.e. obsolete information) and also requires certain information to be included in consumer reports.  The district court agreed with the CDIA that the phrase “relating to information contained in consumer reports” should be read broadly to encompass any state law that regulates what information must or may not be included in a consumer report.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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