South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Use of Consumer Report for Non-Business Purposes Violates FCRA
Description Appeals court held that a detective and his employer might be liable for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by obtaining a consumer report on a prospective son-in-law of the employer. Consumer reports may only be used for legitimate business purposes.
Topic Consumer Protection
Key Words Consumer Report; Fair Credit Reporting Act; Proper Use
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Sarah Grendahl moved in with Lavon Phillips and was planning to marry him. Mary Grendahl, Sarah’s mother, believed Phillips was lying about his background, so she hired a private investigator to check him out. Using, among other sources, consumer reports, the investigator determined that Phillips had been convicted for writing bad checks, sued for paternity in one state, and was delinquent in child support in another state. When Phillips learned that the truth about his background had been revealed, he sued Mary Grendahl, the detective agency, and consumer-reporting agency for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The trial court dismissed the suit. Phillips appealed.

Reversed. The consumer report falls under the FCRA. There is evidence that it may have been obtained for use that is not permitted under the law, which restricts use to legitimate business purposes, such as credit, employment, insurance and licensing. Personal use as in this instance may make defendants liable for willful or negligent misuse or acquisition of a consumer report.

Citation Phillips v. Grendahl, 312 F.3d 357 (8th Cir., 2002)

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