(Editor's Note: Identical letters were sent to the CEOs of Experian and TransUnion.)
January 19, 2006
Mr. Rick Smith
155 Peachtree Street, NE 6th Floor
Atlanta, GA 30309
Dear Mr. Smith:
The newly-acquired right to a free annual credit report represents both an effective identity theft fighting tool and a means of promoting financial literacy. Unfortunately, a sizeable percentage of Spanish-speaking Latinos – the fastest-growing sector of the population -- is being effectively denied this benefit because the information is currently provided only in English.
Consumers Union has received calls in the past few months from Latinos in the U.S. mainland and in Puerto Rico asking for translation assistance in order to navigate this seemingly complex web. We’re hearing frustration on their part that the information, instructions and application for free credit reports are only available in English and that the toll-free lines of the credit reporting agencies lack a mechanism to provide any assistance in Spanish. This lack of bilingual assistance is true both of the main site – annualcreditreport.com – and the sites run by the individual credit reporting agencies, including yours.
Full access to this new right can have a positive impact on reversing the trend that often makes Latinos with limited or no English-language skills, favorite targets for identity theft. It can facilitate their ability to place a fraud alert or request a trade line block, for example. Knowing one’s credit score and the benefits of accumulating good credit can lead to a lifetime of better money management and an individual being able to achieve his or her financial goals.
We appeal to you, as CEO of Equifax, to take a bold step in leading your company to provide Web site and toll-free assistance in Spanish in recognition of the importance of this booming sector of the population. We appeal to you to hire competent, bilingual bicultural staff to assist Spanish-speaking consumers to exercise their credit-report related rights. While the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2004 (FACT Act) currently does not mandate you to do this, we submit to you that raising familiarity with credit reports and credit reporting agencies and the services they offer it is the socially responsible thing to do. It also recognizes the growing affluence and spending power of Latinos in the U.S.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will work with community groups, government officials and both the Spanish-language and mainstream press to educate them on the importance for Spanish-speakers to have equal access to this key information. We are hopeful that you will work together with us, and perhaps even lead the way, in helping make this goal a reality. I appreciate your time, and eagerly await your response.
Senior Staff Attorney
1535 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103