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Removal of public records has little effect on consumers’ credit scores

Consumer market trends

Today we released the latest quarterly consumer credit trends report , this time focusing on the removal of civil public records from consumer credit reports.

The three nationwide credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—entered into a settlement with over 30 state attorneys general. This settlement, called the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP), required the companies to increase the accuracy of credit reports and to make it easier for consumers to correct errors on their reports. Part of this settlement required the three nationwide credit reporting companies to create minimum standards for personally identifiable information and reporting frequency for civil public records, including bankruptcies, civil judgments, and tax liens.  

Starting July 1, 2017, this aspect of the settlement required all civil public records to have a name, address, and a Social Security number or date of birth before appearing on credit records from the three nationwide credit reporting companies. The settlement also required this information to be refreshed by the credit reporting companies at least every 90 days. 

In this report, we explore how the reduction in public records affected consumers' credit records and their credit scores. However, we cannot assess scoring-model accuracy because we need two years of data following the implementation of the new standards to perform that analysis.

Key findings include:

  • When the NCAP was implemented, all civil judgments and about half of the tax liens on consumer credit records were removed. In contrast, the number of reported bankruptcies remained virtually unchanged.
  • In June 2017, just before the NCAP’s restrictions were implemented, 6 percent of consumers had a civil judgment or tax lien. The NCAP appears to have removed the public records for about 80 percent of these consumers. After the NCAP was implemented, 1.4 percent of consumers had a tax lien on their credit report and none had civil judgments.
  • About 4 percent of consumers with civil judgments or tax liens on their credit record in June (0.24 percent of consumers overall) experienced a large enough increase in their credit score as the result of the NCAP to move into a higher credit score band, meaning, for example, that their credit score moved from being subprime to near prime or from near prime to prime. 

The data used in this report are from the Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel, a longitudinal, nationally-representative sample of approximately five million de-identified credit records maintained by one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

Learn more in the quarterly consumer credit trend report.

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