Turner concedes her damages are limited to emotional distress (Doc. 21 at ¶ 62). . . Turner testified that a mortgage broker advised her in early 2015—several months before the July 2015 dispute letter that forms the basis for this lawsuit—that it would be “challenging” for her to obtain a mortgage. Turner claims this conversation caused her great embarrassment and “left [her and her husband] living in a home in a higher risk area” (Doc. 21-1 at 29). She also claims she suffered physical effects from her distress, including insomnia, weight gain, shingles, hives, and missed work (id. at 30). In support of her claims, Turner cites her own testimony and what appear to be photos of hives on her arm and leg (see Doc. 28 at 27; Ex. Q). . . To be recoverable under FCRA, emotional distress must be caused by an inaccuracy in a credit report. But as the Supreme Court has recognized, “not all inaccuracies cause harm or present any material risk of harm.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1550 (2016) (“An example that comes readily to mind is an incorrect zip code. It is difficult to imagine how the dissemination of an incorrect zip code, without more, could work any concrete harm.”). Thus, even if the one-month discrepancy on the Bank of the West account could be considered a technical inaccuracy, as discussed above, Turner offers no argument, let alone evidence, suggesting this information harmed her credit. Further, Turner cites no evidence suggesting the unnamed mortgage broker ever reviewed her Experian credit report, nor does she explain how or why this conversation forced her and her husband to continue living in an unsafe area. Moreover, Turner and her husband ultimately applied and were approved for a home loan (Doc. 21-1 at 28). In short, Turner fails to offer evidence upon which a jury could conclude that an inaccuracy on her credit report proximately caused her emotional distress.
The District Court also found that the consumer’s use of a CRO to dispute her damages was not a “direct” dispute under the FCRA.
The Credit Repair Organization Act, however, was enacted to “protect the public from unfair or deceptive advertising and business practices by credit repair organizations.” 15 U.S.C. § 1679(b)(2). Contrary to Turner’s suggestion, this statute is hardly an affirmative endorsement of CROs as consumer agents. Further, case law supports Experian’s position that under Section 1681i, “directly” means that the dispute is brought by an individual consumer and not by a third party. See, e.g., Whelan v. Trans Union Credit Reporting Agency, 862 F. Supp. 824, 833 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) (“FCRA requires that the information be conveyed by the consumer directly to the credit reporting agency”) (emphasis in original); Wiggins v. Equifax Servs., Inc., 848 F. Supp. 213, 220 (D.D.C. 1993) (“It is also disputed whether Mr. Wiggins, in fact, complained about the accuracy of the report directly to ESI, a requirement for liability under § 1681i(a).”). Likewise, in A-1 Credit & Assurance Co., Inc. v. Trans Union Credit Info. Co., 678 F. Supp. 1147, 1151 (E.D. Pa. 1988), the district court held that a CRA—to protect itself against claims of improper disclosure—was not required to disclose credit information to a CRO. Thus, the CRA did not have to recognize a CRO as a consumer’s agent. Turner does not cite, nor has this Court found, a case that affirmatively allows a CRO to notify CRAs of disputes on behalf of consumers. In fact, at least one court has gone even further, holding that a dispute is not brought directly by a consumer unless the consumer is actively involved in preparing the letter. In Klotz v. Trans Union, LLC, 2008 WL 2758445, at *2 (E.D. Pa. 2008), the plaintiff actually mailed the dispute letter to the CRA. But the court held he failed to meet the “threshold requirement” for a Section 1681i claim because he “had virtually nothing to do with the disputes that he sent in.” Id. at *5. The court also held, however, that this is a fact-specific determination and left open the possibility that a consumer might “directly” dispute a credit report if she “use[d] a CRO to find problems with her credit report, review[ed] the documents and check[ed] them for accuracy, [made] any necessary changes, and [sent] them to a CRA.” Id. None of this authority helps Turner’s case. Not only did Go Clean Credit send the dispute letter on Turner’s behalf, but she also admits her involvement in preparing the dispute was limited to a single telephone conversation, during which a Go Clean Credit representative conducted an “initial credit consultation” (Doc. 21 at ¶¶ 8–9). She did not draft the dispute letter, provide documentation supporting its claims, review its accuracy, sign it, or mail it (id. at ¶¶ 14, 16, 22). Thus, this Court cannot conclude that Turner “directly” notified Experian of her dispute, under any reasonable interpretation of the term.