General Information Services and Affiliate Failed to Verify the Accuracy of Consumer Reports Sold to Employers about Job Applicants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against two of the largest employment background screening report providers for failing take basic steps to assure the information reported about job applicants was accurate. The serious inaccuracies reported by General Information Services and its affiliate, e-Background-checks.com, Inc. (BGC), potentially affected consumers’ eligibility for employment and caused reputational harm. The CFPB is ordering the companies to correct their practices, provide $10.5 million in relief to harmed consumers, and pay a $2.5 million civil penalty.
“General Information Services and its affiliate failed to take basic steps to provide accurate background screening reports to employers about job applicants,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today, we are holding two of the largest companies in this market accountable for cleaning up the quality of their reports.”
GIS and its affiliate, BGC, collectively generate and sell more than 10 million consumer reports about job applicants each year to prospective employers. These consumer reports include criminal history information and civil records, among other types of data. Employers use the consumer reports to determine hiring eligibility of applicants and make other types of employment decisions. The companies are two of the largest background screening report providers in the United States. GIS is headquartered in Chapin, S.C., and BGC is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
The CFPB found that GIS and BGC violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by, among other things, failing to employ reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the information contained in reports provided to consumers’ potential employers. Specifically, the CFPB found that the companies violated the law by:
- Failing to take basic steps to assure accuracy: The CFPB found that the companies failed to use basic procedures for matching public records information to the correct consumer. For example, the Bureau found that GIS did not require employers to provide consumers’ middle names, and neither company had a written policy for researching consumers with common names. The Bureau also found that GIS failed to use an audit process to adequately test the accuracy of the reports provided. The Bureau found that, between 2010 and 2014, nearly 70 percent of criminal history disputes consumers filed with GIS resulted in some change or correction to the information in the consumer’s background report. As a result, the companies provided prospective employers with inaccurate reports that included criminal records attached to the wrong consumers, dismissed and expunged records, and misdemeanors reported as felony convictions. These inaccuracies can result in the denial of employment, missed economic opportunity, and reputational harm to otherwise qualified applicants.
- Including impermissible information in consumer reports: The CFPB also found that the companies unlawfully included certain information in consumer reports they provided to prospective employers. Specifically, the CFPB found that GIS and BCG failed to take measures to prevent non-reportable civil suit and civil judgment information older than seven years from being illegally included in its reports.
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions or individuals engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices or who otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws. Under the terms of the CFPB order released today, the companies are required to:
- Provide $10.5 million in relief to harmed consumers: The companies must identify consumers negatively affected by their conduct and provide monetary relief. The companies will pay approximately $1,000 to each affected consumer.
- Revise their compliance procedures: The companies will revise procedures to assure reporting accuracy. These procedures include using algorithms to distinguish records by middle name and match common names and nicknames, using consumer dispute data to determine the root causes of errors, and using software to identify and reconcile discrepancies.
- Retain an independent consultant: The companies will hire an independent consultant to review and assess the companies’ policies, procedures, staffing levels, and systems. The consultant will also recommend changes and improvements where necessary.
- Develop a comprehensive audit program: To test the accuracy, integrity, and completeness of the public-record information sourced to generate the companies’ background reports, the company will develop a written audit program. The audit program will be implemented at a frequency necessary to reliably test the accuracy of the companies’ background reports. At least twice a year, the companies will evaluate and adjust the audit program in light of the results and any material changes to the companies’ operations.
- Pay a civil monetary penalty of $2.5 million: Collectively, the companies will pay a $2.5 million penalty for their illegal actions.
The consent order is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201510_cfpb_consent-order_general-information-service-inc.pdf
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.