WASHINGTON - Sen. Charles E. Schumer vowed a last-minute push Thursday for legislation he unveiled this week that would let consumers see their credit scores.
"I find it not only wrong, but somewhat sinister, that in the mortgage process lenders have access to all the decision-influencing information, and consumers are left in the dark," the New York Democrat said. He was testifying at a House Banking financial institutions subcommittee hearing on whether lenders should be forced to disclose the highly guarded data.
The Consumer Credit Score Disclosure Act, which Sen. Schumer introduced Monday, is modeled on legislation in California awaiting the governor's signature. Under Sen. Schumer's bill, lenders would have to provide customers with their credit scores and a summary of what the scores mean.
Also testifying were Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., who have introduced similar bills that would provide for the disclosure of credit scores to consumers, but in slightly different ways.
Rep. Cannon said his bill would give consumers the right to view their credit scores and other information in their credit reports. Rep. Ford said his legislation would go further by also providing a free credit report to consumers once a year.
Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., backing the arguments of the credit bureaus and Fair, Isaac & Co., the designer of a commonly used credit-scoring model, urged lawmakers not to overburden lenders and credit bureaus.
"We need to take a look at what we're dealing with here in legislation," she said. "We don't want to inadvertently do something to constrain the credit industry."
Cheryl St. John, a senior vice president at Fair, Isaac, told the panel that legislation requiring disclosure is unnecessary, because market forces will bring about the change more effectively.
Fair, Isaac had a policy of not disclosing credit scores, but she said the firm now supports providing consumers with the scores before they submit loan applications, if the score is accompanied by the underlying credit report and an explanation of the score.
In February, E-Loan Inc. published consumers' credit scores on its Web site, violating the Fair, Isaac policy. Chris Larsen, chief executive officer of E-Loan, said that roughly 25,000 people logged on to check the scores during the four weeks they were available. E-Loan and the users of its Web site were disappointed when Fair, Isaac's pressure on credit bureaus forced E-Loan to discontinue the service, he said.
"Of the 25,000 people who successfully accessed their credit score prior to the shutdown, there seemed to be a high level of understanding and positive consumer awareness," Mr. Larsen said. "We're supportive of any legislation to allow consumers to see their credit scores."
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