UPDATE 1-Credit bureaus can’t bar NJ law requiring foreign language reports, US judge rules

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Adds comment from Consumer Data Industry Association in paragraph 8

By Mike Scarcella

- New Jersey can require Equifax and other major credit bureaus to provide credit reports in non-English languages without violating the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, a U.S. judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Georgette Castner in Trenton on Wednesday declined to strike down the state's multi-language requirement in a challenge brought by the Consumer Data Industry Association, whose members include consumer reporting agencies Equifax EFX.N, Experian EXPN.L and TransUnion TRU.N.

The trade group had argued that forcing credit bureaus to provide reports to consumers in languages other than English was barred by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which was first enacted in 1970, and the U.S. Constitution's free speech protections.

Castner said New Jersey’s 2019 amendment adding language disclosure provisions to its fair-credit law was lawful.

“Requiring the translation of credit file disclosures serves the interest of preventing consumer confusion and deception and curbing barriers to financial literacy,” Castner wrote.

The court noted that Equifax was already voluntarily providing credit reports in Spanish.

Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and the New Jersey attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Consumer Data Industry Association in a statement said "we agree with the spirit of inclusion New Jersey’s law represents, but it is not the appropriate vehicle to achieve that goal." The group said it was weighing its options to appeal.

In a partial victory for the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, Castner struck a provision of the New Jersey law that said credit agencies must provide reports in up to at least 10 languages other than English and Spanish.

Castner said that provision could be deemed “unnecessarily burdensome” and that the record in the case "does not support setting a floor this high."

But the judge declined to invalidate the entire state law based on what she called a “single defect.”

The case is Consumer Data Industry Association v. Platkin, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, No. 3:19-cv-19054.

For CDIA: William Marshall Jr and Kerry Duffy of Zeichner Ellman & Krause; and Jennifer Sarvadi and Rebecca Kuehn of Hudson Cook

For New Jersey: Olga Elaine Bradford and Tim Sheehan of Office of the Attorney General

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella)

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