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Uncheck that Box

By Arthur A. Ebbs

Comcast has a policy in its Chicago region that permits a prospective customer to make a $50 deposit for internet service in lieu of a requirement to submit to a credit check.  In Santangelo v. Comcast Corporation, 2018 WL 4404679 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 17, 2018), a customer informed a Comcast representative that he would prefer to make a $50 deposit over having a credit check initiated.  However, the Comcast representative clicked an “apply” button on his computer screen without unchecking the box that initiated a credit inquiry, and the failure to uncheck the box initiated a credit inquiry on the customer with Equifax.  The customer passed the credit inquiry, but his credit score dropped by six points on the same day that the request was initiated.

The customer sued and thereafter moved for summary judgment on the ground that Comcast violated the FCRA because it did not have a legitimate business need for his credit score.  The customer offered evidence of Comcast’s policy to accept a $50 deposit.  Comcast argued that it had a legitimate business interest in the information due to an ongoing credit risk, but the Court found that no issue of fact existed due to Comcast’s policy and granted the customer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Comcast did not have a legitimate business need for his credit score.

However, the Court did find that a question of fact existed as to whether or not Comcast’s violation of the FCRA was willful.  As such, Comcast is faced with a trial over whether or not it willfully violated the FCRA.  If found to have willfully violated the FCRA at trial, Comcast could be found liable for statutory and punitive damages as well as attorneys’ fees.

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