The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on November 3, 1968 · Page 184
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November 3, 1968

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 184

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West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 3, 1968
Page:
Page 184
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subcommittee will hold early hearings on the measure when it is introduced next year. Meanwhile, letters in the congressional mail-bag from embittered credit users seem certain to earmark the bill as one of next year's most pressing consumer protection issues on Capitol Hill. when a derogatory item has been entered in his credit record and that he be given a chance to correct it if proven incorrect. (3) Establish procedures for discarding irrelevant and outdated information in an individual's credit file. The senator has already promised that his 1fkfl''lriDiiIwiiiiiit if myr wmm wpsM BIGGER THAN THIS ENTIRE PAGE . .. , $10.25 value I I A'V "j '--Jf'- " 1 isn't a -credit granter (nor did the request involve credit), he promptly got back a letter and a personal call from the manager. The complete report listed the research assistant's previous residences and employment history, as well as data as to her character, habits, morals, estimated monthly income, and, in Westin's words, "a considerable list of other items." Equally disturbing about the privacy question is the status of credit employees. While there are some 400,000 credit granting companies, each may have several employees authorized to obtain reports. Another 14,000 persons work for credit bureaus. Each enjoys anonymous status, has the power to adversely affect your credit record, and is practically immune from libel. Almost everyone, it would seem, can get access to your credit file but you. One company, for example, won't even acknowledge that your record is- on file. Others will answer a request submitted in writing, but equally as many will attempt to ward off inquiries by charging a "nuisance fee" or by delaying scheduled appointments until the consumer tires of waiting. Some credit industry leaders, however, are calling for changes. Fair access by consumers to their own files is one of the voluntary reforms sought by an "Advisory Committee on Protection of Privacy," recently set up by the Associated Credit Bureaus of America and eight other credit industry trade associations. But they face stubborn barriers among many of their own members. "After all, I'm not the one initiating the credit investigation," argues a Florida bureau manager, who typifies many of his colleagues in the industry. "Anyone asking for the right to borrow another man's money ought to be willing to put his reputation on the line. Besides, if you make it tougher to hunt up a man's credit record, you'll only be adding an expense that will eventually have to be passed on to the buyer in the form of higher prices." Proxmire's bill Many legislators in Washington don't quite agree, which is why several bills were introduced in the 90th Congress to regulate credit bureaus. Among them is Sen. William Proxmire (D., Wis.), who says he'll introduce such a bill when the Congress meets in January, and who, as chairman of the Senate's Financial Institutions Subcommittee, can probably do more for its enactment than any single member. "I don't want to make it tougher to investigate credit or make it more expensive. And I certainly don't want to hinder an industry which has played such a major role in our economic growth," declares Senator Proxmire. "But what we can do is protect consumers against arbitrary and erroneous credit ratings, and the unwarranted publication of credit information." To accomplish the task, the senator's proposed legislation would: (1) Require that credit bureaus guarantee the privacy of a consumer's credit file, primarily by providing that no information be released to non-creditors (such as government investigators) without the written consent of the person involved. 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