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Senate Bill Would Add Utility Payments To Credit Reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced today the introduction of legislation that would allow for a more thorough and fair evaluation of an individual’s credit worthiness. The Credit Access and Inclusion Act would improve individuals’ access to credit by allowing utility companies to report a person’s on-time payments to credit reporting agencies.

“This bill will bring ‘credit invisible’ people – estimated to be as high as 59 million Americans – out of the financial shadows,” Senator Kirk said. “There is no reason why credit reporting agencies should not be able to use complete data from utility companies to better assess a person’s payment history. Senator Manchin and I will continue to work together to expand fair access to credit for hardworking, responsible Americans.”

“All Americans deserve a chance to gain access to credit if they pay their bills on time every month,” Senator Manchin said. “It’s just common sense to give everyone a fair shot and earn access to credit if they have proven their ability to be responsible. It’s a real shame that the current system keeps some of the most vulnerable citizens in the shadows, and I am proud to work with my dear friend, Senator Mark Kirk, to fix this issue to help all Americans.”

Background

An estimated 59 million adults are financially excluded from mainstream credit access in the U.S., largely due to lack of credit history, not bad credit history. Credit history is developed through access to credit lines, and also determines an individual’s credit score. The credit invisible – younger people, the elderly, widowed or divorced women, immigrants and low income – still have established payment histories through telephone and utility payments, yet this information is not generally reported. These individuals are left to obtain credit from higher-cost services, which can often result in a bad credit history being established.

Currently, there is ambiguity for telephone and utility companies about reporting a “full-file” consumer data—that is, reporting positive payment history information in addition to negative. A recent study by the Policy Economic Research Council found that 49 million financially invisible people would benefit from a more complete reporting of payment data from utility and phone companies. The Kirk-Manchin Credit Access and Inclusion Act would allow full-file payment history to be reported to credit bureaus to establish a more complete and accurate file of credit information.

Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) introduced a house companion bill, H.R. 2358, which has gained 8 cosponsors.