Consumer Compliance Outlook: Second Issue 2020

Furnishers’ Obligations for Consumer Credit Information Under the CARES Act, FCRA, and ECOA

By Maureen Yap, Senior Counsel, Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

As the nation grapples with the health and financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued operation of the credit reporting system can play a critical role in the functioning of the consumer financial services market. Most creditors rely on the information in credit reports in deciding whether to grant credit — including mortgage loans, auto loans, credit cards, and private student loans. These reports can also be used, among other permissible purposes, to help landlords determine eligibility for rental housing, to help insurers set premiums for automobile, homeowners, and other insurance, and to help employers assess job applicants.

Over the years, Congress has taken steps to ensure the fairness and accuracy of these reports. The two primary federal credit reporting laws are the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The FCRA, as implemented by Regulation V, imposes certain requirements on entities that furnish information about consumers to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs).1 The ECOA, as implemented by Regulation B, generally prohibits discrimination in any aspect of a credit transaction, including furnishing credit information, and contains certain specific requirements for creditors who furnish credit information about accounts used or held by spouses.2

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law to provide relief to consumers and businesses struggling during the COVID-19 emergency.3 Among other things, the CARES Act amended the FCRA to address furnishers’ responsibilities.4 Generally, the amendment requires furnishers who provide a credit accommodation to a consumer affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to report the consumer’s account or credit obligation as “current.” This provision ensures that consumers affected by the pandemic can obtain essential relief without jeopardizing their credit scores and their future ability to rent or buy a home, purchase a car, obtain a credit card or student loan, obtain affordable insurance, or secure employment.

To generate awareness of the important role of furnishers of credit information, Outlook published an article in 2012 titled, “Furnishers’ Compliance Obligations for Consumer Credit Information under the FCRA and ECOA.”5 Because of the importance of credit reporting information, as well as the changes under the CARES Act, we are refreshing this article with updated information.


Section 623 of the FCRA and Regulation V generally provide that a furnisher must not furnish inaccurate consumer information to a CRA, and that furnishers must investigate a consumer’s dispute that the furnished information is inaccurate or incomplete. At the federal level, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) have supervisory authority for depository institutions’ compliance with the FCRA.6 For most provisions of the FCRA, the Board, FDIC, OCC, and NCUA have supervisory authority for depository institutions with assets of $10 billion or less. For depository institutions with assets over $10 billion, the Bureau has the authority. In addition, the state attorneys general have enforcement authority.7 Finally, private plaintiffs have the right to file lawsuits with respect to the furnisher’s obligation to investigate a consumer dispute filed with a CRA.8


Generally, Section 623 of the FCRA applies to any “person” who furnishes information related to a “consumer” to a “consumer reporting agency.” The term person is broadly defined as “any individual, partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperative, association, government or governmental subdivision or agency, or other entity.”9 The term consumer is limited to “an individual.”10 The term consumer reporting agency (CRA) refers to “any person which, for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in whole or in part in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties, and which uses any means or facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports.”11

In addition, Regulation V defines a furnisher as “an entity that furnishes information relating to consumers to one or more consumer reporting agencies for inclusion in a consumer report.”12

The CARES Act: Duty to Report Certain Information During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Coverage. A new provision of the FCRA added by the CARES Act imposes certain duties on a furnisher that makes an “accommodation” with respect to one or more payments on a credit obligation or account of a consumer (a covered furnisher).13 The new provision states that the “the term ‘accommodation’ includes an agreement to defer 1 or more payments, make a partial payment, forbear any delinquent amounts, modify a loan or contract, or any other assistance or relief granted to a consumer who is affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic during the covered period.”14 The term covered period begins on January 31, 2020, and ends 120 days after the termination of the COVID-19 national emergency.15 The provision does not apply to a credit obligation or account of a consumer that has been charged off.16

Reporting. Under this new provision, a covered furnisher must report the credit obligation or account as current if:

A covered furnisher must maintain the delinquent status during the period in which the accommodation is in effect if the credit obligation or account was delinquent before the accommodation.17

The other provisions of Section 623 of the FCRA — including the duty to provide accurate information, the duty to implement reasonable policies and procedures, and the duty to investigate disputes — remain in effect and are described next.

Duty to Provide CRAs with Accurate Information

Prohibition on Reporting Inaccurate Information. Section 623(a) of the FCRA generally prohibits a person from furnishing inaccurate information to a CRA. The standards for the prohibition differ, depending on whether the person specifies an address for receipt of notices from consumers concerning inaccurate information. If the person specifies such an address, it may not furnish information relating to a consumer to any CRA, if (a) the consumer notified the person, at the specified address, that the information is inaccurate, and (b) the information is, in fact, inaccurate.18

If the person does not specify such an address, the FCRA prohibits the person from reporting information to a CRA if the furnisher “knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the information is inaccurate.”19 The statute defines reasonable cause to believe that the information is inaccurate to mean “having specific knowledge, other than solely allegations by the consumer, that would cause a reasonable person to have substantial doubts about the accuracy of the information.”20

Duty to Promptly Correct and Update Information. Section 623(a) of the FCRA also requires a person who regularly furnishes information to CRAs to promptly notify a CRA if the person determines the previously furnished information is not complete or accurate.21 The person must then provide corrected information and ensure it does not refurnish the incomplete or inaccurate information.

Duty to Provide Notice of Dispute. If a consumer disputes the completeness or accuracy of furnished information, the furnisher must provide a notice of the dispute to the CRAs when furnishing the disputed information.22

Duty to Provide Notice of Accounts Closed Voluntarily. A person who regularly furnishes information to CRAs must notify the CRAs when a consumer voluntarily closes a credit account.23 This notice must be included in the information regularly furnished for the period in which the account is closed.

Duty to Provide Dates of Delinquency. When an account is placed for collection, is charged to profit or loss, or a similar action is taken, and that delinquency is furnished to a CRA, the furnisher must notify the CRA of the date of delinquency on the account no later than 90 days after furnishing the information.24 This date is the month and year the account first becomes delinquent, not when the creditor places the account for collections, charges the account to profit or loss, or takes a similar action.25

Duty to Prevent Repollution of Consumer Reports. If a consumer submits an identity theft report to a furnisher indicating that furnished information resulted from identity theft, the furnisher must not report the information to the CRAs unless the furnisher subsequently knows or is informed by the consumer that the information is correct.26 In addition, furnishers are required to maintain reasonable procedures to respond to notifications from the CRAs relating to information that results from identify theft to prevent refurnishing this information.

Duty to Provide the Customer with a Notice about Negative Information

Duty to Provide a Notice to the Customer. If a financial institution that extends credit and regularly furnishes information to a nationwide CRA furnishes negative information to the CRAs about a credit extension, the financial institution must provide a clear and conspicuous written notice to the customer indicating that it furnished negative information to the CRAs.27 The term negative information means “information concerning a customer’s delinquencies, late payments, insolvency, or any form of default.”28

Timing of Notice. The financial institution must provide the notice to the customer no later than 30 days after furnishing the negative information to a CRA. After providing the notice, the financial institution is not required to send the customer additional notices if it furnishes additional negative information to the CRAs about the same transaction, credit extension, account, or customer.29

Format of Notice. The notice generally may be included on or with any notice of default, any billing statement, or any other materials provided to the customers; however, if the notice is provided to the customer prior to furnishing the negative information to a CRA, the notice may not be included in the initial disclosures provided under Section 127(a) of the Truth in Lending Act.30 Two model forms (Model Notices of Furnishing Negative Information) are available in Appendix B of Regulation V.31 Although use of the model forms is not required, a financial institution is deemed to comply with the requirements if it uses one of the model forms.32

Duty to Implement Reasonable Policies and Procedures

Regulation V requires furnishers to establish and implement reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the consumer information furnished to CRAs.33

Accuracy means that the information the furnisher provides to a CRA correctly:

Integrity means the information the furnisher provides to a CRA:

Regulation V requires that the furnisher’s policies and procedures be appropriate to the nature, size, complexity, and scope of its activities.36 In developing the policies and procedures, a furnisher must consider the Interagency Guidelines Concerning the Accuracy and Integrity of Information Furnished to Consumer Reporting Agencies found in Appendix E of Regulation V (Interagency Guidelines), and incorporate those guidelines, as appropriate. Each furnisher must also review its policies and procedures periodically and update them as necessary to ensure their continued effectiveness.

The Interagency Guidelines include:

Duty to Investigate Disputes Filed Directly with the Furnisher

The FCRA and Regulation V generally require a furnisher to conduct a reasonable investigation of a dispute submitted directly to a furnisher by a consumer concerning the accuracy of any information contained in a consumer report and pertaining to an account or other relationship that the furnisher has or had with the consumer (direct dispute).38

Covered Disputes. A furnisher is required to investigate if the dispute relates to:

The direct dispute rule does not apply if the dispute relates to the consumer’s identifying information, the identity of past or present employers, or inquiries or requests for a consumer report. It also does not apply to disputes relating to information that is derived from public records, provided to a CRA by another furnisher, or related to fraud alerts or active duty alerts.40 Finally, the rule does not apply if the furnisher has a reasonable belief that the direct dispute is submitted by a credit repair organization, is prepared on behalf of the consumer by a credit repair organization, or is submitted on a form supplied to the consumer by a credit repair organization.41

Consumer’s Obligation to Submit a Proper Notice of Dispute. A furnisher is required to investigate the dispute only if the consumer submitted the dispute notice to one of the following addresses:

Moreover, the consumer’s dispute notice must include:

Furnisher’s Duty to Investigate. Upon receiving a consumer’s proper notice of dispute, the furnisher must conduct a reasonable investigation of the dispute.44 The furnisher also must review all relevant information provided by the consumer with the dispute notice.

The furnisher has 30 days from the receipt of the dispute notice (with the possibility for a 15-day extension under certain circumstances) to complete the investigation and report the results to the consumer.45 If the furnisher finds that the information reported was inaccurate, the furnisher must promptly notify each CRA to which it provided the inaccurate information of the determination and provide the changes necessary to make the information accurate.46

Exception for Frivolous or Irrelevant Disputes. A furnisher is not required to investigate a direct dispute if the furnisher has reasonably determined that the dispute is frivolous or irrelevant.47 Under Regulation V, a dispute is frivolous or irrelevant if the dispute notice (1) does not contain sufficient information to investigate the dispute, (2) raises a dispute about information exempted from the rule, or (3) raises a dispute that is substantially the same as a dispute previously submitted by the consumer and resolved in accordance with the regulations. If the furnisher determines that a dispute is frivolous or irrelevant, the furnisher has five business days to notify the consumer of its determination. The notice must include the reasons for the determination and identify any information required to investigate the disputed information.

Duty to Investigate Disputes Filed with CRAs

The FCRA requires furnishers to investigate consumer disputes filed with the CRAs about information the furnishers provided.48 More specifically, when a furnisher receives notice from a CRA that a consumer disputes the completeness or accuracy of information the furnisher provided to the CRA, the furnisher must investigate the disputed information, review all relevant information the CRA provided, and report the results of its investigation to the CRA.49 If the furnisher determines the information it provided was incomplete or inaccurate, the furnisher must notify all nationwide CRAs to which the information was furnished of its findings.50 Finally, if the furnisher determines the disputed information is inaccurate or incomplete or cannot be verified, the furnisher must promptly modify or delete the information or permanently block the reporting of that information.51 The furnisher generally has 30 days from the date the consumer filed the dispute with the CRA to complete its investigation and make appropriate notifications, but the investigation period may be extended an additional 15 days in some circumstances.52


Regulation B, which implements the ECOA, imposes certain obligations on creditors that furnish credit information to CRAs.53 In addition, Regulation B prohibits discrimination on a prohibited basis regarding any aspect of a credit transaction.54 At the federal level, the Board, FDIC, OCC, and NCUA have supervisory authority for ECOA and Regulation B for depository institutions with assets of $10 billion or less.55 For depository institutions with assets over $10 billion, the Bureau has this authority. Also, if any of these agencies has reason to believe that the creditor engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination, then the agency must refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice.56 The Board has referred one matter involving discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status in credit reporting.57 In this matter, the creditor failed to provide information to CRAs about the payment history of spouses (almost all of whom were women) who were contractually obligated on the note.

In addition to the federal regulators, private plaintiffs have the right to file lawsuits under the ECOA.58 Violations of Regulation B can subject creditors to civil liability for actual and punitive damages in individual and class actions.59 If a furnisher fails to comply with the regulation because of an inadvertent error, there is no violation.60 The term inadvertent error means “a mechanical, electronic, or clerical error that a creditor demonstrates was not intentional and occurred notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid such errors,”61 but it does not include an error of legal judgment.62 Upon discovering the error, the furnisher must correct it as soon as possible.


Regulation B applies to a creditor, which is broadly defined to mean “a person who, in the ordinary course of business, regularly participates in a credit decision, including setting the terms of the credit.”63 The Official Staff Commentary to the regulation clarifies that the furnisher requirements only apply to consumer credit.64 Moreover, they apply only to creditors that opt to furnish credit information to CRAs or to other creditors; a creditor is not required to furnish credit information on its accounts.

Duties for Accounts Held or Used by Spouses

Section 1002.10 of Regulation B imposes three obligations on creditors furnishing consumer credit information to the CRAs for accounts held or used by spouses.

First, a creditor must designate accounts to reflect both spouses’ participation in the accounts in the following circumstances:

Second, when an account is designated to reflect the participation of both spouses, the creditor must furnish the information to the CRAs in a way that enables the CRAs to provide access to the information in the name of each spouse.66

Finally, if a creditor receives an inquiry about an account that reflects both spouses participating, the creditor must furnish the information in the name of the spouse for whom the information is requested.67 For example, if the inquiry concerns an account on which a husband and wife both participate, and the inquiry specifically is about the wife, the creditor must provide the information in the wife’s name.

Prohibition on Discrimination

In addition to the specific furnisher provisions, Regulation B broadly prohibits creditors from discriminating in any aspect of the credit transaction on any prohibited basis.68 The term credit transaction includes the “furnishing of credit information.”69 The term prohibited basis means “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age (provided that the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract); the applicant’s receipt of income, in whole or part, from any public assistance program; or the applicant’s exercise in good faith of a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act or any state law upon which an exemption has been granted by the [Bureau].”70 This general rule covers, for example, the administration of accounts and the treatment of delinquent or slow accounts.71


Credit reports play an important role for consumers and creditors. Specific provisions of the CARES Act, the FCRA, Regulation V, the ECOA, and Regulation B are designed to ensure the fairness and accuracy of these reports. Financial institutions that furnish information to the CRAs should have adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure that they are complying with these requirements, including procedures to periodically test systems to verify compliance. Compliance with the credit reporting laws can promote fair and efficient access to credit, benefiting consumers and creditors alike. Specific questions should be addressed to your primary regulator.


1 Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., implemented in part by Regulation V, 12 C.F.R. Part 1022. Most of the furnisher requirements discussed in this article under Section 623 of the FCRA (15 U.S.C. §1681s-2) do not have implementing regulations, so furnishers must focus on the statutory requirements.

2 Equal Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §1691 et seq., implemented by Regulation B, 12 C.F.R. Part 1002. In addition, under the ECOA, Regulation B (12 C.F.R. §1002.9), and the FCRA (15 U.S.C. §1681m), consumers and businesses applying for credit must be provided notice of the reasons a creditor took adverse action on the application or on an existing credit account in certain circumstances.

3 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (March 27, 2020).

4 Section 4021 of the CARES Act amended Section 623(a)(1) of the FCRA (15 U.S.C. §1681s–2(a)(1)).

5 Kenneth Benton and Casey McHugh, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, “Furnishers’ Compliance Obligations for Consumer Credit Information under the FCRA and ECOA,” Consumer Compliance Outlook (Second Quarter 2012).

6 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s(b), §1681s-2(d).

7 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s(c), §1681s-2(d).

8 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(c).

9 See 15 U.S.C. §1681a(b).

10 See 15 U.S.C. §1681a(c).

11 See 15 U.S.C. §1681a(f).

12 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.41(c). An entity is not a furnisher when it: (1) provides information to a consumer reporting agency solely to obtain a consumer report in accordance with Sections 604(a) and (f) of the FCRA; (2) is acting as a “consumer reporting agency” as defined in Section 603(f) of the FCRA; (3) is a consumer to whom the furnished information pertains; or (4) is a neighbor, friend, or associate of the consumer, or another individual with whom the consumer is acquainted or who may have knowledge about the consumer, and who provides information about the consumer’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living in response to a specific request from a consumer reporting agency.

13 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(F), as added by Section 4021 of the CARES Act.

14 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(F)(i)(I).

15 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(F)(i)(II). Under the National Emergencies Act, an emergency declaration will automatically terminate on the one-year anniversary of the declaration if the President does not extend it during the 90-day period before the anniversary. 50 U.S.C. §1622(d). An emergency declaration can also be terminated by a joint resolution of Congress enacted into law or by a Presidential proclamation. 50 U.S.C. §1622(a).

16 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(F)(iii).

17 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(F)(ii).

18 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(B). FCRA does not require a person to specify an address for receipt of notices from consumers concerning inaccurate information. 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(C).

19 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(A).

20 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(1)(D).

21 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(2)(B).

22 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(3).

23 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(4).

24 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(5).

25 See 15 U.S.C. §1681c(a).

26 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(6).

27 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(7).

28 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(7)(G)(i).

29 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(7)(A)-(B).

30 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(7)(B)(ii) and (C)(i).

31 See 12 C.F.R. Part 1022, Appendix B – Model Notices of Furnishing Negative Information.

32 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(7)(D).

33 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.42. The FCRA requires the Bureau to establish and maintain guidelines for furnishers regarding the accuracy and integrity of furnished information and to prescribe regulations requiring furnishers to establish reasonable policies and procedures to implement these guidelines. 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(e).

34 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.41(a).

35 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.41(d).

36 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.42.

37 See 12 C.F.R. Part 1022, Appendix E, paragraph III.

38 The general direct dispute requirements are found at 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(a)(8); 12 C.F.R. §1022.43. The definition of direct dispute is found at 12 C.F.R. §1022.41(b).

39 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(a).

40 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(b)(1).

41 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(b)(2).

42 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(c).

43 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(d).

44 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43 (e).

45 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(e)(3).

46 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(e)(4).

47 See 12 C.F.R. §1022.43(f).

48 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b).

49 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b)(1)(A)-(C).

50 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b)(1)(D).

51 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b)(1)(E).

52 See 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b)(2).

53 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.10.

54 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.4(a).

55 See 15 U.S.C. §1691c.

56 See 15 U.S.C. §1691e(g).

57 See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, 98th Annual Report (2011).

58 See 15 U.S.C. §1691e.

59 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.16(b)(1).

60 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.16(c).

61 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.2(s).

62 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.16(c), Comment 1.

63 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.2(l).

64 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.10, Comment 1.

65 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.10(a).

66 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.10(b).

67 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.10(c).

68 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.4(a).

69 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.2(m).

70 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.2(z)

71 See 12 C.F.R. §1002.4(a), Comment 1.