On October 5th, the CFPB published a notice announcing the CFPB Office of Financial Education’s intent to compile a list of companies offering existing customers free access to their credit score. The CFPB’s stated intent in compiling this list is to educate consumers and help them make better informed financial decisions. Comments must be submitted to the CFPB by November 4, 2016.
The initial list will cover only credit card issuers. However, the CFPB may consider expanding the list or creating a separate future list to include non-credit card issuers in other markets. To be included in this list, these companies must meet certain specified criteria, including offering existing customers (at least some, but not necessarily all) the ability to obtain a free credit score that the company or other lenders use for account origination, portfolio management, or for other business purposes. The free credit score must be offered to existing customers on a continuous basis, as opposed to a time-limited or promotional basis. The free credit score made available to existing customers must also periodically be updated.
Financial institutions should carefully assess whether they wish to voluntarily seek inclusion on this list. The CFPB clearly states that inclusion on the list is not an endorsement, but the CFPB has noted in the past that making free credit scores available to customers is a best practice. Companies must consider the potential impact of being excluded from the list and what that choice may communicate to the CFPB and customers. On the other hand, the CFPB suggests that it “could” leverage this list to bring consumer attention to the topic of credit scores, and follow up with content to educate, inform, and empower consumers on the availability of credit scores and credit reports and how consumers can use this information. However, nothing in the notice limits the ability of the CFPB to use the information submitted by companies seeking inclusion on the list for other purposes. For example, the CFPB states that inclusion on this list will have no impact on the CFPB’s supervisory activity, but the CFPB reserves the right to conduct due diligence on a company’s assertions about free credit scores.