The Federal Trade Commission has ordered the Trans Union Corporation to stop selling consumer reports in the form of target marketing lists to marketers who lack an authorized purpose for receiving them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). In a unanimous opinion authored by Commissioner Mozelle W. Thompson, the FTC determined that “Trans Union’s target marketing lists are . . . consumer reports under the FCRA” and concluded that Trans Union is violating the FCRA by selling this information to target marketers who lack one of the “permissible purposes” enumerated under the Act. The Commission’s decision applies to a number of Trans Union’s target marketing list products including its Master File / Selects products, its modeled products and its TransLink / reverse append products. Trans Union is based in Chicago, Illinois, and is one of the three national credit bureaus, or consumer reporting agencies, in the United States. It currently handles data on approximately 160 million consumers. As a consumer reporting agency, Trans Union receives detailed credit information about millions of American consumers from numerous credit grantors including banks, mortgage companies, credit unions, auto dealers and others. Trans Union compiles this information into consumer reports and sells the reports to credit grantors nationwide.
Defendant Trans Union is one of three major consumer reporting agencies in the United States. Its core business is assembling and evaluating consumer credit information, including credit and payment patterns on consumers for the purpose of selling consumer reports to third parties. Typical buyers of such information are firms considering extending credit to a particular consumer. The information provided by Trans Union is used to determine if the consumer is a good credit risk. Trans Union maintains a computer data base called “CRONUS,” that contains consumer credit information it uses to generate credit reports. The data base includes the credit activity of every credit-active individual in the United States. Trans Union receives the information from credit grantors such as banks, mortgage companies, credit unions, auto dealers and collection agencies. Trans Union also receives information on student loans and child support.