The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, is the primary federal statute that regulates the credit reporting industry. When you obtain your credit report from Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion or any of the many other consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), you are obtaining a type of consumer report as that term is defined by the FCRA. But the definition of consumer report pursuant to FCRA § 1681a(d) covers far more than your credit report. For instance, the reports that potential creditors obtain about you when you apply for credit are consumer reports. Background check reports that employers obtain about you are also consumer reports.
Specifically, at 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d), the Fair Credit Reporting Act defines the term consumer report as:
“any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer's credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer's eligibility for—(a) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; (b) employment purposes; or (c) any other purpose authorized under Section 1681b [of the FCRA].”
The purposes authorized by 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681a(d) and 1681b are known as “permissible purposes.” The specific permissible purposes set forth in 15 U.S.C. § 1681b can be found here. It is a violation of the FCRA for “user” of consumer reports to obtain a consumer report for anything other than a permissible purpose and for a consumer reporting agency to issue a consumer report for anything other than a permissible purpose.