Consumer activists say a change that Fannie Mae is considering to speed up underwriting could hurt people with marginal credit.

Fannie confirmed Wednesday that it may ease its credit report requirement for loans it buys through its automated underwriting service.

Today, Fannie’s Desktop Underwriter system automatically pulls credit reports from all three national credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union — for each loan. The mortgage giant is now thinking about settling for only one, from any of them.

Officials said the policy change would reduce underwriting costs and processing times.

Probably this fall, Fannie will begin a pilot program in which a handful of lenders will be able to apply for loan approval using information from only one credit bureau.

A spokeswoman, Raschelle Burton, said the government-sponsored enterprise has been weighing the change — at the suggestion of lenders — for three years. “Lenders have long been comfortable using data from a single in-file,” she said. “They would like us to get where they are.”

Consumer activists, however, said the change might lead to riskier loans or drive more consumers into the subprime category. They said a single-file requirement would leave borrowers at the mercy of credit reporting errors.

“Fannie has the market power to be part of the credit-report nightmare solution instead of compounding the credit nightmare problem, as they are doing,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Mr. Mierzwinski said that credit reports and scores are “notoriously inaccurate,” leaving consumers at the margins vulnerable. “It’s absurd for Fannie to consider results from only one repository instead of looking for anomalies between all three and determining which one is most accurate,” he said.

David Berenbaum, senior vice president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, said he is concerned that lower credit data requirements could lead to more subprime loans.

He said that consumers must be allowed to review their credit report prior to a credit check, and that “liberal standards” should be applied to ensure that “the most favorable report is used.”

Ms. Burton acknowledged that “clearly significant errors or omissions can have an adverse effect on a consumer’s ability to access credit at fair rates.” However, she said the latest versions of the Desktop Underwriter system provide specific feedback to lenders that they can review with borrowers to pinpoint any problems with their credit information.

Ms. Burton stressed that Fannie officials have decided few, if any, details of the test, including the number of participating lenders and the criteria for selecting credit reports. “It hasn’t even reached the pilot stage yet,” the spokeswoman said. “We are still in the investigation and design phase.”

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