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COMMERCE AND TRADE · UNITED STATES CODE
41. CONSUMER CREDIT PROTECTION
Subchapter III. CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
15 USC § 1681a.
Definitions; rules of construction
(a) Definitions and rules of construction set forth in this section are
applicable for the purposes of this subchapter.
(b) The term “person” means any individual, partnership, corporation,
trust, estate, cooperative, association, government or governmental subdivision
or agency, or other entity.
(c) The term “consumer” means an individual.
(d) Consumer Report.—
(1) In general.— The term “consumer report” means any written, oral,
or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency
bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit
capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of
living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part
for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s
(A) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or
(B) employment purposes; or
(C) any other purpose authorized under section 1681b of this title.
(2) Exclusions.— Except as provided in paragraph (3), the term
“consumer report” does not include—
(A) subject to section 1681s–3 of this title, any—
(i) report containing information solely as to transactions or
experiences between the consumer and the person making the report;
(ii) communication of that information among persons related by common
ownership or affiliated by corporate control; or
(iii) communication of other information among persons related by
common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if it is clearly and
conspicuously disclosed to the consumer that the information may be
communicated among such persons and the consumer is given the opportunity,
before the time that the information is initially communicated, to direct
that such information not be communicated among such persons;
(B) any authorization or approval of a specific extension of credit
directly or indirectly by the issuer of a credit card or similar device;
(C) any report in which a person who has been requested by a third party
to make a specific extension of credit directly or indirectly to a consumer
conveys his or her decision with respect to such request, if the third party
advises the consumer of the name and address of the person to whom the
request was made, and such person makes the disclosures to the consumer
required under section 1681m of this title; or
(D) a communication described in subsection (o) or (x) of this section.
(3) Restriction on sharing of medical information.—Except for information
or any communication of information disclosed as provided in section 1681b
(g)(3) of this title, the exclusions in paragraph (2) shall not apply with
respect to information disclosed to any person related by common ownership or
affiliated by corporate control, if the information is—
(A) medical information;
(B) an individualized list or description based on the payment
transactions of the consumer for medical products or services; or
(C) an aggregate list of identified consumers based on payment
transactions for medical products or services.
(e) The term “investigative consumer report” means a consumer report or
portion thereof in which information on a consumer’s character, general
reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living is obtained through
personal interviews with neighbors, friends, or associates of the consumer
reported on or with others with whom he is acquainted or who may have knowledge
concerning any such items of information. However, such information shall not
include specific factual information on a consumer’s credit record obtained
directly from a creditor of the consumer or from a consumer reporting agency
when such information was obtained directly from a creditor of the consumer or
from the consumer.
(f) The term “consumer reporting agency” means 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.
(g) The term “file”, when used in connection with information on any
consumer, means all of the information on that consumer recorded and retained by
a consumer reporting agency regardless of how the information is stored.
(h) The term “employment purposes” when used in connection with a
consumer report means a report used for the purpose of evaluating a consumer for
employment, promotion, reassignment or retention as an employee.
(i) Medical Information.— The term “medical information”—
(1) means information or data, whether oral or recorded, in any form or
medium, created by or derived from a health care provider or the consumer,
that relates to—
(A) the past, present, or future physical, mental, or behavioral health
or condition of an individual;
(B) the provision of health care to an individual; or
(C) the payment for the provision of health care to an individual.
(2) does not include the age or gender of a consumer, demographic
information about the consumer, including a consumer’s residence address or
e-mail address, or any other information about a consumer that does not relate
to the physical, mental, or behavioral health or condition of a consumer,
including the existence or value of any insurance policy.
(j) Definitions Relating to Child Support Obligations.—
(1) Overdue support.— The term “overdue support” has the meaning
given to such term in section 666 (e) of title 42.
(2) State or local child support enforcement agency.— The term “State
or local child support enforcement agency” means a State or local agency
which administers a State or local program for establishing and enforcing
child support obligations.
(k) Adverse Action.—
(1) Actions included.— The term “adverse action”—
(A) has the same meaning as in section 1691 (d)(6) of this title; and
(i) a denial or cancellation of, an increase in any charge for, or a
reduction or other adverse or unfavorable change in the terms of coverage
or amount of, any insurance, existing or applied for, in connection with
the underwriting of insurance;
(ii) a denial of employment or any other decision for employment
purposes that adversely affects any current or prospective employee;
(iii) a denial or cancellation of, an increase in any charge for, or
any other adverse or unfavorable change in the terms of, any license or
benefit described in section 1681b (a)(3)(D) of this title; and
(iv) an action taken or determination that is—
(I) made in connection with an application that was made by, or a
transaction that was initiated by, any consumer, or in connection with a
review of an account under section 1681b (a)(3)(F)(ii) of this title; and
(II) adverse to the interests of the consumer.
(2) Applicable findings, decisions, commentary, and orders.— For purposes
of any determination of whether an action is an adverse action under paragraph
(1)(A), all appropriate final findings, decisions, commentary, and orders
issued under section 1691 (d)(6) of this title by the Board of Governors of
the Federal Reserve System or any court shall apply.
(l) Firm Offer of Credit or Insurance.— The term “firm offer of credit or
insurance” means any offer of credit or insurance to a consumer that will be
honored if the consumer is determined, based on information in a consumer report
on the consumer, to meet the specific criteria used to select the consumer for
the offer, except that the offer may be further conditioned on one or more of
(1) The consumer being determined, based on information in the consumer’s
application for the credit or insurance, to meet specific criteria bearing on
credit worthiness or insurability, as applicable, that are established—
(A) before selection of the consumer for the offer; and
(B) for the purpose of determining whether to extend credit or insurance
pursuant to the offer.
(A) that the consumer continues to meet the specific criteria used to
select the consumer for the offer, by using information in a consumer report
on the consumer, information in the consumer’s application for the credit
or insurance, or other information bearing on the credit worthiness or
insurability of the consumer; or
(B) of the information in the consumer’s application for the credit or
insurance, to determine that the consumer meets the specific criteria
bearing on credit worthiness or insurability.
(3) The consumer furnishing any collateral that is a requirement for the
extension of the credit or insurance that was—
(A) established before selection of the consumer for the offer of credit
or insurance; and
(B) disclosed to the consumer in the offer of credit or insurance.
(m) Credit or Insurance Transaction That Is Not Initiated by the Consumer.—
The term “credit or insurance transaction that is not initiated by the
consumer” does not include the use of a consumer report by a person with which
the consumer has an account or insurance policy, for purposes of—
(1) reviewing the account or insurance policy; or
(2) collecting the account.
(n) State.— The term “State” means any State, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and any territory or possession of the
(o) Excluded Communications.— A communication is described in this
subsection if it is a communication—
(1) that, but for subsection (d)(2)(D) of this section, would be an
investigative consumer report;
(2) that is made to a prospective employer for the purpose of—
(A) procuring an employee for the employer; or
(B) procuring an opportunity for a natural person to work for the
(3) that is made by a person who regularly performs such procurement;
(4) that is not used by any person for any purpose other than a purpose
described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (2); and
(5) with respect to which—
(A) the consumer who is the subject of the communication—
(i) consents orally or in writing to the nature and scope of the
communication, before the collection of any information for the purpose of
making the communication;
(ii) consents orally or in writing to the making of the communication
to a prospective employer, before the making of the communication; and
(iii) in the case of consent under clause (i) or (ii) given orally, is
provided written confirmation of that consent by the person making the
communication, not later than 3 business days after the receipt of the
consent by that person;
(B) the person who makes the communication does not, for the purpose of
making the communication, make any inquiry that if made by a prospective
employer of the consumer who is the subject of the communication would
violate any applicable Federal or State equal employment opportunity law or
(C) the person who makes the communication—
(i) discloses in writing to the consumer who is the subject of the
communication, not later than 5 business days after receiving any request
from the consumer for such disclosure, the nature and substance of all
information in the consumer’s file at the time of the request, except
that the sources of any information that is acquired solely for use in
making the communication and is actually used for no other purpose, need
not be disclosed other than under appropriate discovery procedures in any
court of competent jurisdiction in which an action is brought; and
(ii) notifies the consumer who is the subject of the communication, in
writing, of the consumer’s right to request the information described in
(p) Consumer Reporting Agency That Compiles and Maintains Files on Consumers
on a Nationwide Basis.— The term “consumer reporting agency that compiles
and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis” means a consumer
reporting agency that regularly engages in the practice of assembling or
evaluating, and maintaining, for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to
third parties bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, or
credit capacity, each of the following regarding consumers residing nationwide:
(1) Public record information.
(2) Credit account information from persons who furnish that information
regularly and in the ordinary course of business.
(q) Definitions Relating to Fraud Alerts.—
(1) Active duty military consumer.— The term “active duty military
consumer” means a consumer in military service who—
(A) is on active duty (as defined in section 101 (d)(1) of title 10) or
is a reservist performing duty under a call or order to active duty under a
provision of law referred to in section 101 (a)(13) of title 10; and
(B) is assigned to service away from the usual duty station of the
(2) Fraud alert; active duty alert.— The terms “fraud alert” and
“active duty alert” mean a statement in the file of a consumer that—
(A) notifies all prospective users of a consumer report relating to the
consumer that the consumer may be a victim of fraud, including identity
theft, or is an active duty military consumer, as applicable; and
(B) is presented in a manner that facilitates a clear and conspicuous
view of the statement described in subparagraph (A) by any person requesting
such consumer report.
(3) Identity theft.— The term “identity theft” means a fraud
committed using the identifying information of another person, subject to such
further definition as the Commission may prescribe, by regulation.
(4) Identity theft report.— The term “identity theft report” has the
meaning given that term by rule of the Commission, and means, at a minimum, a
(A) that alleges an identity theft;
(B) that is a copy of an official, valid report filed by a consumer with
an appropriate Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, including
the United States Postal Inspection Service, or such other government agency
deemed appropriate by the Commission; and
(C) the filing of which subjects the person filing the report to criminal
penalties relating to the filing of false information if, in fact, the
information in the report is false.
(5) New credit plan.— The term “new credit plan” means a new account
under an open end credit plan (as defined in section 1602 (i) of this title)
or a new credit transaction not under an open end credit plan.
(r) Credit and Debit Related Terms—
(1) Card issuer.— The term “card issuer” means—
(A) a credit card issuer, in the case of a credit card; and
(B) a debit card issuer, in the case of a debit card.
(2) Credit card.— The term “credit card” has the same meaning as in
section 1602 of this title.
(3) Debit card.— The term “debit card” means any card issued by a
financial institution to a consumer for use in initiating an electronic fund
transfer from the account of the consumer at such financial institution, for
the purpose of transferring money between accounts or obtaining money,
property, labor, or services.
(4) Account and electronic fund transfer.— The terms “account” and
“electronic fund transfer” have the same meanings as in section 1693a of
(5) Credit and creditor.— The terms “credit” and “creditor” have
the same meanings as in section 1691a of this title.
(s) Federal Banking Agency.— The term “Federal banking agency” has the
same meaning as in section 1813 of title 12.
(t) Financial Institution.— The term “financial institution” means a
State or National bank, a State or Federal savings and loan association, a
mutual savings bank, a State or Federal credit union, or any other person that,
directly or indirectly, holds a transaction account (as defined in section 461
(b) of title 12) belonging to a consumer.
(u) Reseller.— The term “reseller” means a consumer reporting agency
(1) assembles and merges information contained in the database of another
consumer reporting agency or multiple consumer reporting agencies concerning
any consumer for purposes of furnishing such information to any third party,
to the extent of such activities; and
(2) does not maintain a database of the assembled or merged information
from which new consumer reports are produced.
(v) Commission.— The term “Commission” means the Federal Trade
(w) Nationwide Specialty Consumer Reporting Agency.— The term “nationwide
specialty consumer reporting agency” means a consumer reporting agency that
compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis relating to—
(1) medical records or payments;
(2) residential or tenant history;
(3) check writing history;
(4) employment history; or
(5) insurance claims.
(x) Exclusion of Certain Communications for Employee Investigations.—
(1) Communications described in this subsection.— A communication is
described in this subsection if—
(A) but for subsection (d)(2)(D) of this section, the communication would
be a consumer report;
(B) the communication is made to an employer in connection with an
(i) suspected misconduct relating to employment; or
(ii) compliance with Federal, State, or local laws and regulations, the
rules of a self-regulatory organization, or any preexisting written policies
of the employer;
(C) the communication is not made for the purpose of investigating a
consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity; and
(D) the communication is not provided to any person except—
(i) to the employer or an agent of the employer;
(ii) to any Federal or State officer, agency, or department, or any
officer, agency, or department of a unit of general local government;
(iii) to any self-regulatory organization with regulatory authority over
the activities of the employer or employee;
(iv) as otherwise required by law; or
(v) pursuant to section 1681f of this title.
(2) Subsequent disclosure.— After taking any adverse action based in
whole or in part on a communication described in paragraph (1), the employer
shall disclose to the consumer a summary containing the nature and substance
of the communication upon which the adverse action is based, except that the
sources of information acquired solely for use in preparing what would be but
for subsection (d)(2)(D) of this section an investigative consumer report need
not be disclosed.
(3) Self-regulatory organization defined.— For purposes of this
subsection, the term “self-regulatory organization” includes any
self-regulatory organization (as defined in section 78c (a)(26) of this
title), any entity established under title I of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
[15 U.S.C. 7211 et seq.], any board of trade designated by the Commodity
Futures Trading Commission, and any futures association registered with such
Rev. Jan. 3, 2007]