In Pulliam v. American Express Travel Related Services Co., Inc., 2009 WL 1586012 (N.D.Ill. 2009), Judge Kennelly addressed whether a pro per Plaintiff stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under FCRA arising from the defendant’s purported access of Plaintiff’s credit report without a permissible purpose. The issue before the District Court was whether FCRA permits a creditor to access a credit report on a closed account. The District Court denied the defendant’s FRCP 12(b)(6) Motion. The District Court recited the facts as follows:
American Express offered Pulliam a settlement of one specific account through its attorneys and collection agents Zwicker & Associates and Baker Miller Markoff & Krasny. Pulliam alleges that American Express directed its attorneys and agents to misrepresent the character of the debt and to use deceptive forms, in violation of his rights under the FDCPA. Pulliam agreed to the settlement and submitted payment in accordance with the agreement. He also alleges that American Express misapplied funds from that payment in violation of the agreement. . . ¶ Some time after Pulliam made the settlement payment, American Express accessed his consumer report, allegedly without a permissible purpose.
The District Court analyzed whether the Plaintiff’s allegations stated a claim under FCRA’s requirement that a creditor have permissible purpose for accessing a consumer’s credit report.
Pulliam alleges that after receiving payment pursuant to a settlement agreement, American Express accessed his credit file without his permission and without a permissible purpose, in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681b and 1681q. . . ¶ Pulliam contends that American Express had no permissible purpose for accessing his consumer re-port after he had submitted payment pursuant to the settlement agreement because the account was closed at that point and he did not authorize American Express to access his report. American Express contends that because Pulliam had an account with American Express at one time, “it had a permissible purpose to review his credit.” Mot. at 5. In support of this contention, American Express relies on Levine v. World Financial Network Nat’l Bank, 554 F.3d 1314, 1318 (11th Cir.2009). American Express argues that Levine stands for the proposition that “so long as there was, at any point in time, an account relation-ship … there is a permissible purpose under the FCRA.”Reply at 4. ¶ American Express’s reliance on Levine is misplaced. . . . ¶ American Express does not argue that it interpreted the FCRA as allowing access to consumer reports on consumers whose accounts had been closed. Rather, American Express argues only that a creditor “cannot be held liable for improper access where, as here, the plaintiff currently has or had at one time, an account” with the creditor. Reply at 3 (emphasis in original). In other words, if a consumer ever had an account with a creditor, that creditor has a right under the FCRA, no matter what the circumstances, to access the consumer’s report. That is not so. As an initial matter, the statute does not grant creditors the right to access the consumer report of a consumer with a closed account simply by virtue of the fact that the consumer had an open account at some point in time. See 15 U.S.C. 1681b. Furthermore, the court in Levine did not conclude that the existence of an account at some point in time is a permissible purpose per se. Neither did it conclude that the FCRA affirmatively allows creditors to access consumer reports for consumers whose only relationship to the creditor is a closed account. Rather, the court considered only whether a credit reporting agency’s interpretation of the FCRA was objectively unreasonable so as to trigger liability for willful noncompliance under section 1681 n. That is not the argument that American Express has made in the present case.