Cowans v. Equifax Information Services, Inc., No. 20-3368 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
In these consolidated cases, the plaintiffs owe consumer debts they claim are not owned by the creditors listed on their credit reports. They approached the consumer reporting agencies and requested an investigation of their claims. The consumer reporting agencies contacted the purported creditors for verification that they owned the debts, which the creditors confirmed. Although informed of these confirmations, the plaintiffs did not believe that the consumer reporting agencies investigated the claims as thoroughly as 15 U.S.C. 1681i of the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires, so they sued.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims. The plaintiffs’ allegations that the creditors did not own their debts are not factual inaccuracies that the consumer reporting agencies are statutorily required to guard against and reinvestigate, but primarily legal issues outside their competency. The plaintiffs are not without recourse. They could confront the creditors who are in the best position to respond to assertions that they do not own the plaintiffs’ debts or, under 15 U.S.C. 1681i(c), make notations of their disputes on their credit reports. The burden to determine whether their debts were validly assigned is not on the consumer reporting agencies.