FTC, Treasury Secretary Back Extension of FCRA Provision

Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Treasury officials testified before a House committee yesterday to advocate the renewal of a provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that pre-empts state laws.

The provision, set to expire Jan. 1, prevents state and local governments from enacting stronger protections for credit data.

In his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, FTC chairman Timothy J. Muris supported making the provision permanent.

“The commission believes that the national character of our credit markets is a powerful argument for retaining the uniform standards,” Muris said in part. “The current system functions well, and we believe there is no compelling justification for fundamental changes. The FCRA forms the baseline of consumer protections that the marketplace has now incorporated into its thinking and behavior.”

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow also testified in favor of renewing the provision.

“The FCRA, with its uniform national standards for information sharing, operates to expand the opportunity for consumers to access credit and financial services; they make your reputation as a borrower portable, so that you don't have to establish your good name from scratch in every city you visit or every store where you shop,” he said in part.

Snow proposed other additions to strengthen the FCRA, which were backed by Muris in his testimony. They included implementing a national security alert system to combat identity theft, providing expanded access to free credit reports to consumers and making opt-out notices easier to understand.

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