Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) complaint againts Instant Criminal Records Search

A class action complaint was filed against a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) on April 16, 2012, alleges that the Defendant reported inaccurate criminal data obtained from an “instant” criminal record search without courthouse confirmation, and also that there was allegedly no notice to the consumer who was the subject of the search. The suit also alleges that such acts were in violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that protects consumers from inaccurate or irrelevant information and failed to meet the standard of accuracy and fairness mandated by the FCRA. 

The Plaintiff claims that the Defendant – a CRA that collects consumer information and sells “consumer reports” that are also known as background checks – failed to meet the standard of accuracy and fairness mandated by the FCRA, which requires all CRAs that report criminal   conviction and other information to employers adopt and implement procedures that “assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.”

The Plaintiff claims that when she applied for a job, the CRA:

  • Reported to two different employers that used their “instant” database that the Plaintiff had been arrested and charged with felony offenses in Los Angeles County, but failed to report the felony charge had been dismissed and a misdemeanor conviction had been legally expunged;
  • Provided her potential employer with outdated, incomplete, and inaccurate information regarding her alleged criminal record;
  • Failed to provide timely notice that such information had been reported; and
  • Caused Plaintiff to be denied valuable employment opportunities.

Despite the requirements of FCRA, the complaint alleges the CRA:

  • Twice failed to notify Plaintiff contemporaneously of the fact that public record information about her was being reported;
  • Failed to maintain strict procedures designed to insure such information was complete and up-to-date; and
  • Failed to utilize reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the adverse information it reported to her potential.

The complaint also claims the CRA failed to ensure accurate and timely reporting of convictions and other consumer information due to a promise of instant results. According to the complaint filed in the Alameda County Superior Court in California:

Some or all of [Defendant’s] unlawful conduct is attributable to its promise of “instant” results, which are incompatible with the accuracy requirements imposed on credit reporting agencies by the FCRA. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that rather than conducting an individualized investigation of a consumer’s criminal record at the time a background check is requested, [Defendant] responds to its employer clients’ requests on the basis of information collected in internal databases. This information does not and by definition it cannot include the most timely and accurate information, as the FCRA requires.

The complaint notes that individuals with criminal records have difficulties getting employment and rehabilitation is even more difficult when expunged criminal records are “illegally and incorrectly reported.”

The complaint indicated that because of the impact of the CRA’s wrongful practices, the Plaintiff is suing on behalf of consumers throughout the country who have been the subject of similar prejudicial, misleading, and inaccurate background check reports prepared by the Defendant. Since the suit alleges that the CRA’s non-compliance was willful, the Plaintiff and class members are entitled to statutory damages provided by the FCRA. Under FCRA section 616, the potential penalties for willful noncompliance can be $100 to $1,000 per victim, plus attorney’s fees and punitive damages.

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