Incomplete Doesn’t Always Mean Inaccurate: Fifth Circuit “Hammers” In Denial of Plaintiff’s Complain

A new opinion from the Fifth Circuit found that an incomplete credit report can still be “accurate” under § 1681e(b) – even where the credit report omits a favorable item from a consumer’s credit report that could be germane to the consumer’s credit history.  Although plaintiff had argued that, in deleting a favorable credit item, Credit Reporting Agencies (“CRAs”) had failed to ensure “maximum possible accuracy” of his credit report under § 1681e(b), the court instead ruled that an incomplete report is not always “inaccurate” to the point of being misleading.  The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint, and further found that the CRAs did not have a duty to reinvestigate where plaintiff disputed the completeness, rather than an item, of his credit report.

In Hammer v. Equifax Info. Servs., No. 19-10199, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 28800, at *5 (5th Cir. Sept. 9, 2020), plaintiff had continually made timely payments to a credit card, and wanted the favorable account included on his credit report.  The account associated with the credit card was reported by the three major CRAs until 2017.  When plaintiff learned that the CRAs had stopped reporting the account, he requested that it be restored to his credit reports; Equifax and Experian, the defendant CRAs, refused.  After several disputes from plaintiff, they added the credit account to his report, but one, Equifax, ultimately removed it again.  Plaintiff’s credit score fell after the removal, and he sued Equifax and Experian for negligent and willful violations of the FCRA.  The district court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss the complaint, and plaintiff appealed.