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1.2.1 Terminology and Convention

The FCRA regulates primarily “consumer reporting agencies” and “consumer reports.”7 A consumer reporting agency includes companies that keep files on the credit histories of consumers, sometimes known as “credit bureaus.” It also includes many other entities such as check approval services, tenant screening bureaus, and employment screening agencies.8 Thus, a consumer report includes credit reports, but it also includes tenant reports, employment reports, and many other types of reports. The three best known “credit bureaus” (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) are covered under a specific category of consumer reporting agency under the FCRA, called “nationwide” consumer reporting agencies.9

This treatise primarily uses the term “consumer reporting agencies” or CRAs to refer to those entities regulated by the FCRA. It will use the term nationwide CRA for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (which are also popularly known as the “Big Three”), and will also on occasion refer to them as “credit bureaus.” This treatise will refer to both “consumer reports” as regulated by the FCRA and “credit reports,” particularly when referring to consumer reports focused on consumer credit information issued by the nationwide CRAs.


  • 7 {7} See Ch. 2, infra.

  • 8 {8} Protecting Consumers’ Data: Policy Issues Raised by ChoicePoint: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the H. Comm. on Energy and Commerce, 109th Cong. (2005) (statement of Deborah Platt Majoras, Chair, Federal Trade Commission), available at

  • 9 {9} See § 2.6.1, infra (discussing the definition of a “nationwide” consumer reporting agency).