Free credit report bills get scrutiny

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Legislators are talking about requiring credit agencies to provide consumers with a free credit report every year.

Backers of the proposal say it would help combat identity theft. Skeptics question how much good it would do and whether it would drive up the cost of other credit reporting agency services.

''This is a piece of consumer protection legislation,'' said Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, who is sponsoring the measure in the Senate. ''This is information that really belongs to the consumer.''

French told the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday it cost him about $30 to check his own credit report with the three national reporting agencies.

If consumers are encouraged to keep tabs on their credit reports, they may catch identity theft early, French said. Six other states now require agencies to provide free credit reports to consumers, he said.

Committee Chairman Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, asked French whether providing the free reports to consumers might drive up the costs of other reports the credit reporting agencies provide.

French said he had heard nothing from the agencies about what it would cost them.

Steve Cleary, executive director of Alaska Public Interest Research Group, said he thinks Senate Bill 64 would help the industry.

''It benefits both consumers and credit companies because fraud costs everybody money,'' Cleary said.

Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, expressed doubt that many people would actually take advantage of the law if it passed.

French said about one in 10 people now check their credit reports annually.

Bunde asked French to provide more information on the cost to the credit reporting agencies for a subsequent hearing. He did not schedule another hearing Thursday.

An identical bill by Rep. Harry Crawford, D-Anchorage, moved through the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

House Bill 85 is now in the Rules Committee, which schedules bills for a floor vote. Crawford said he did not know when that vote would occur.

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