Equifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency in the United States, considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and TransUnion. Founded in 1899, Equifax is the oldest of the three agencies and gathers and maintains information on over 400 million credit holders worldwide. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax is a global service provider with US $1.5 billion in annual revenue and 7,000+ employees in 14 countries. Equifax is listed on the NYSE.
Equifax was founded as Retail Credit Company in 1899. The company grew quickly and by 1920 had offices throughout the US and Canada. By the 1960s, Retail Credit Company was one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus, holding files on millions of American and Canadian citizens.
Retail Credit Company’s extensive information holdings, and its willingness to sell them to anyone, attracted criticism of the company in the 1960s and 1970s. These included that it collected “…facts, statistics, inaccuracies and rumors… about virtually every phase of a person’s life; his marital troubles, jobs, school history, childhood, sex life, and political activities.” The company was also alleged to reward its employees for collecting negative information on consumers.
As a result, when the company moved to computerize its records, which would lead to much wider availability of the personal information it held, the US Congress held hearings in 1970. These led to the enactment of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the same year which gave consumers rights regarding information stored about them in corporate databanks. It is alleged that the hearings prompted the Retail Credit Company to change its name to Equifax in 1975 to improve its image.
The company has been fined by the Federal Trade Commission on two occasions for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In 2000, Equifax along with Experian and Trans Union were fined US$2.5 million for blocking and delaying phone calls from consumers trying to get information about their credit. In 2003, the FTC took Equifax to court for the same reason and settled its lawsuit with the company for a fine of US$250,000.
The company later expanded into commercial credit reports on companies in the US, Canada and the UK, where it came into competition with companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. The company also had a division selling specialist credit information to the insurance industry but spun off this service, including the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) database as ChoicePoint in 1997. The company formerly offered digital certification services, which it sold to GeoTrust in September 2001. In the same year, Equifax spun off its payment services division, forming the publicly-listed company Certegy, which subsequently acquired Fidelity National Information Services in 2006. Certegy effectively became a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial as a result of this reverse acquisition merger
Web site: www.equifax.ca
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