In Pagazani v. Equifax Information Services, LLC, 2016 WL 2997586, at *5-6 (S.D.Fla., 2016), Judge Bloom granted summary judgment to a consumer reporting agency against a debtor who claimed that the bank’s furnishing of information to the CRA was inaccurate because he had a defense to the underlying debt itself — namely, that he was only an “authorized user” on the credit card and not the actual cardholder responsible for the debt.
In other words, a CRA is not obligated to report information about a disputed item simply because the consumer asserts a legal defense. Indeed, “the very economic purpose for credit reporting companies would be significantly vitiated if they shaded every credit history in their files in the best possible light for the consumer.” Id. at 1158. Here, as in Cahlin, there is no dispute that the Account was accurately reflected on Pagazani’s credit report. Instead, Pagazani attacks the underlying legal issue of whether an account for which an individual is only an authorized user is properly associated with that individual’s credit history – or, conversely, whether including that information “creates a misleading impression in a material sense.” Bauer, 2012 WL 4054296, at *3. “This is not a factual inaccuracy that could have been uncovered by a reasonable reinvestigation, but rather a legal issue [implicating applicable banking and commerce laws] that a credit agency such as [Equifax] is neither qualified nor obligated to resolve under the FCRA.” DeAndrade, 523 F.3d at 68. “Because CRAs are ill equipped to adjudicate contract [or other legal] disputes, courts have been loath to allow consumers to mount collateral attacks on the legal validity of their debts in the guise of FCRA reinvestigation claims.” Carvalho v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 629 F.3d 876, 891 (9th Cir. 2010). The Court is, of course, mindful of “the legislative purpose of the FCRA to serve, in significant part, as a consumer-protection tool.” Rapapport v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, No. 13-61624-CV, 2013 WL 5728731, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 22, 2013) (citing Yang v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 146 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998) (“The FCRA seeks to promote the credit reporting industry’s responsible dissemination of accurate and relevant information.”)). The instant dispute as presented, nevertheless, does not implicate the “improvement of the accuracy of consumer records and the efficient resolution of consumer disputes.” Id. Furthermore, alternative remedies were available to Plaintiff. First, the FCRA allows consumers who are dissatisfied by a reinvestigation to file a brief explanatory statement to be reported along with the disputed item. See Mangio v. Equifax, Inc., 887 F. Supp. 283, 284 (S.D. Fla. 1995) (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(b)-(c)). “In this way, potential creditors have both sides of the story and can reach an independent determination of how to treat a specific, disputed account.” Cahlin, 936 F.2d at 1160 n. 23. Second, Pagazani could have gone to the source of the credit information, BOA, to attempt to resolve the dispute. The parties have even stipulated on the record that “the data furnisher is typically in the best position to investigate a dispute, as it has the records and direct relationship with the consumer.” D SOF ¶ 36; P SOF ¶ 36; Paul v. Experian Info. Solutions, 793 F. Supp. 2d 1098, 1103 (D. Minn. 2011) (“With respect to the accuracy of disputed information, the CRA is a third party, lacking any direct relationship with the consumer.”) (quotations omitted); Carvalho, 629 F.3d at 892 (“Carvalho complains that such an explanatory statement cannot obliterate the stain of a derogatory item on her credit report. While this may be true, it merely reinforces our view that a consumer who disputes the legal validity of an obligation should do so directly at the furnisher level. If successful, the consumer can clear her credit report without the need for any explanatory statements. That Carvalho failed to do so is no fault of the CRAs.”). Certainly, the Account that Pagazani disputes is with BOA – not Equinox. The evidence demonstrates that Pagazani sought no further relief beyond the two letters he sent to Defendant, on August 11, 2014, and March 30, 2015 –from Equifax or otherwise. Moreover, the significant length of time between these two letters was the result of his own lack of diligence in failing to respond to Equifax’s request for personal identification documents for more than seven months. Because of Plaintiff’s delay, Equifax was unable to send an ACDV to BOA until April 8, 2015, shortly after Pagazani’s second letter. Once BOA responded to Equifax on April 27, 2015, Defendant made the requested changes, as detailed above, and sent Plaintiff the results of its reinvestigation on the very next day. Pursuant to the information provided by BOA, the reinvestigation did not counsel Defendant to remove the Account record from Pagazani’s credit report. The parties agree as to this series of events – they only disagree as to their meaning under the law. To the extent that Plaintiff mounts an attack against the standard industry process and procedures used by consumer reporting agencies nationwide – which allow CRAs to communicate with data furnishers through use of pre-defined codes and narrative phrases, id. ¶ 38 – that argument must fail. Plaintiff seeks to hold Equifax liable in this instance, not for failing to comply with reasonable standards, but, for expressly following them. This notion conflicts with the plain language of the FCRA, which instructs a CRA to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b). Likewise, the Court declines to conclude that conformance with the FCRA in this case created a materially misleading impression of the Account debt. See Resp. at 1-2. To hold otherwise would allow claims that wrongly confuse consumer dissatisfaction with unfair reporting. Ultimately, Equifax could not have resolved Pagazani’s legal dispute with BOA through a reasonable reinvestigation, pursuant to sections 1681e(b) and i(a). See, e.g., Carvalho, 629 F.3d at 892 (finding that district court properly granted summary judgment to CRAs because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that reporting was incorrect or materially misleading). This is the only pertinent inquiry at this stage. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s FCRA claims cannot survive Defendant’s Motion.