After nearly three years of uncertainty regarding the disclosure of so- called "risk scores," the Federal Trade Commission has ruled that credit bureaus are not required to include such numbers on credit reports requested by consumers.

Risk scores are a numerical analysis of all the information in a credit file. They are commonly used by lenders to determine whether a consumer is creditworthy, and qualifies for a loan based on the lender's underwriting criteria.

Lenders, credit bureaus, and consumer activists aired their differing opinions on this issue by submitting their comments to the FTC, which made its ruling Sept 1.

The financial services community argued that mandating the disclosure of risk scores would only confuse consumers, because the numbers vary from lender to lender, and they frequently change depending on the scoring model that is used.

Moreover, they maintained that the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which addresses credit bureaus, does not require the disclosure of risk scores.

Consumerists, by contrast, said that credit bureaus have an obligation to reveal risk scores because lenders often only look at these scores rather than the whole credit report, and therefore, consumers are entitled to see this information.

Ultimately, the FTC based its decision on its legal analysis of the fair-credit law, according to agency attorney David Medine.

Under this law, credit bureaus are required to disclose only "the nature and substance of all information in its files on the consumer at the time of the request."

Mr. Medine pointed out that risk scores are simply not in a consumer's credit report. The scores are available upon request, but must first be generated, he said.

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