Both Experian, a credit reporting agency, and ConServe, a collection agency with a focus on student loan debt, were granted summary judgments against a plaintiff, Christopher Abernathy. Abernathy attempted to sue both agencies for violations of the FDCPA and FCRA; both agencies were able to show that there were no violations.

The case made it to court as Christopher Abernathy v. Continental Service Group and Experian Information Solutions.

A timeline might be helpful to make sense of how this fell apart for Abernathy.

Some Point in the Past Abernathy enrolls in the College of Southern Nevada. He uses student loan(s?) to pay. He defaults on at least one of them.

Some Point in the Past But After He Enrolls in College and Defaults Abernathy's student loan is turned over to ConServ for collections.

July 2016 Abernathy hires Credit Research of Nevada to get his credit back on track. CRN, as is generally the practice with credit repair organizations, flooded Experian with letters disputing, essentially, every debt on Abernathy's credit report.

12 August 2016 CRN sends Experian a letter disputing all the negative accounts on Abernathy's credit report. This would include the student loan debt.

26 August 2016 Abernathy pays the loan back to CSN, in full.

Some Time After 26 August Experian sends an ACDV to ConServ. ConServ sends a request to CSN (the college -- there are a lot of C acronyms and I am sorry) to validate that Abernathy owes CSN the debt. They send proof back to ConServe, who uses that reply with Experian. Experian marks that item as "paid, closed" as of September 2016.

14 September 2016 CRN tries Round 2 of the Flood 'Em With Letters trick, disputing all the items on Abernathy's credit report, again. They also ask that the CSN debt that is now "paid, closed," also be removed. Experian re-sent Abernathy's credit report to him, showing that that item was listed as "paid, closed." They do not remove the account.

[This cycle here at the end -- CRN disputes everything / Experian says, "ConServe, fix this" / ConServe fixes, proving the debt was and always has been valid, just now it's also "paid, closed" / Experian won't remove the item -- is lather-rinsed-repeated three times.]

 

Abernathy finally decides to sue.

Per the case file:

Abernathy brings two claims. The first is for negligently and willfully violating the FCRA. The second is for violating the DTPA. Experian moves for summary judgment on both claims.

Abernathy alleges Experian violated sections 1681e(b) and 1681i(a) of the FCRA by failing to maintain reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy in its credit reports and failing to conduct a sufficient reinvestigation of the ConServe account

Ultimately, however, the court found for both Experian and ConServe. Here's why:

1) Abernathy did not suffer any material damage from having the item on his credit report. Abernathy was not purchasing a home, or applying for a job.

2) The information on the credit report that was incorrect was corrected.

3) Valid debts, even if paid in full, cannot be removed from a consumer's credit report.

insideARM Perspective

Responding to credit reporting issues can easily be at least one employee's full-time job. And the FCRA isn't always as clear as it could be. What is heartening in a case like this is how the FCRA and both companies' policies and procedures made this decision easy. False information was never purposefully put on a consumer's credit report. Paid items were marked as paid. Each time the consumer disputed, it was investigated, with supporting documentation. The claim ends up looking like the disgruntled last grasp of someone frustrated that an item won't be removed from his credit report.


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