When Julie Miller was denied credit from a bank in 2009, she wanted to know why. She contacted Equifax, the company that had prepared her report, to investigate. What Julie learned about her report made Equifax seem like a careless teenager sneakily scrawling their parents’ credit card information on the back of a recycled receipt. There were mistakes — and lots of them.
After receiving a copy of her credit report, Miller found false identifying information, an incorrect Social Security number, a false birthday and false, derogatory collection accounts that she was not responsible for. D’oh. Julie then entered the life-draining Black Hole of outsourced customer service, where souls go to die. You know the one. The one where you’re on hold for 17 minutes before you can get anyone on the phone, only to repeatedly spill all of your personal information to three different departments over the course of an hour (all the while being intermittently bombarded with white noise torture tactics in the form of Kenny G hold music) and ending in an empty promise that a “supervisor” will call you back within 24-48 business hours. Hell. On. Earth.
Julie started disputing the false information in 2010, according to her complaint, and was denied credit by yet another bank that same year before Equifax was able to “process” her information. Once they were able to identify the root of the problem (her info had become “mixed” with another person’s), they passed the buck and told Miller she’d have to take it up with the creditors. “Not our problem,” basically.
But it WAS Equifax’s problem, and after Miller tried 8 (yes, EIGHT) times to get her report corrected, she took them to court in 2011.
“We found that when complaints would come in, they’d run them through a scanner and then send them overseas,” says Justin Baxter, one of Miller’s attorneys. (Miller’s particular request was once sent as far as the Philippines for processing by a subcontractor.)
Miller won her suit, and she won BIG. The jury awarded her $18.6 million in damages — an unprecedented amount that may partially be due to our increased sensitivity to (lack of) information privacy, according to Baxter.
ABC News points out that “the mixing of Miller’s credit data with another person’s meant that at the same time Miller was being sent the other person’s un-redacted personal information, her own unredacted personal information, including her social security number, were being sent to others.”
But Baxter also thinks that Miller won the money because she should have, plain and simple. She repeatedly tried to get Equifax to correct their errors and was backed into a financially restrictive corner on several occasions before taking them to task.
“She did what you’re supposed to do,” Baxter says. “She didn’t go running straight to the courthouse.”
Isn’t it nice when justice prevails?
Featured image via Shutterstock