FCRA §1681o applies to negligent violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act Pursuant to FCRA §1681o, any person (under the law, the term person includes entities such as, among others, (a) consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) — Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and others, (b) furnishers of information to CRAs — lenders, credit card servicers, student loan servicers, and others, and (c) users of consumer reports (anyone who obtains your credit report from a CRA)) who is negligent in failing to comply with any section of the FCRA for which there is a private right of action “is liable to that consumer in an amount equal to the sum of (1) any actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the failure; and (2) . . . the costs of the action together with reasonable attorney’s fees as determined by the court.”
In plain English, if you are a victim of a negligent FCRA violation and are successful in court, you are entitled to the “actual damages” you prove, which may include financial damages (pecuniary harm resulting from credit denials, denials of mortgage applications and so forth), damages you suffered due to emotional distress (such as stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness), harm to your privacy rights, and damage to your reputation.
In addition, and significantly, the FCRA is a fee-shifting statute. That means that a successful negligence claim under the FCRA requires liable Defendants, and not you, to pay the costs you incurred in bringing the action and your reasonable attorneys fees.
FCRA §1681n applies to willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act If you successfully prove that a Defendant’s FCRA violation was willful (a term that includes recklessness and does not necessarily require intentional misconduct),FCRA §1681nrequires that Defendant to pay your actual damages (as described above) or statutory damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 for each willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In addition, because of the fee-shifting nature of the FCRA, you are (as is the case with a negligent FCRA violation) entitled to payment of your costs in bringing the action and to an award of your reasonable attorneys fees. Moreover, and importantly, FCRA §1681n specifically states that a consumer who proves that he or she is a victim of a willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is entitled to “such amount of punitive damages as the court may allow.” What does this mean? Under §1681n, a jury may award you damages sufficient to punish a Defendant that commits a willful (knowing or reckless) violation of the FCRA. Bottom line? Consumers who bring successful lawsuits under the FCRA may receive real and substantial compensation.