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Eastern District of PA Prevents Credit Reporting Agencies from Venue Transfer

On June 20, 2018 the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prevented a consumer credit reporting agency, Equifax, from transferring a case from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Edwards v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. CV 18-1077, 2018 WL 3046603, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2018). Consumer credit reporting agencies gather consumers’ personal information about their credit history, credit worthiness, mode of living, and other personal characteristics which they then analyze and sell. Credit reporting agencies like Equifax gather this information independently and not at the request of the person whose credit is being reported on. Consumers must therefore react to the actions of credit agencies in this unilateral relationship. To properly maintain this unusual relationship Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to create a “national standard for regulating the relationship between credit reporting agencies and consumers.”

In this case the plaintiff brought a claim alleging that Equifax violated the FCRA by failing to provide contact information for entities that accessed his credit information. After the case was removed to the Eastern District Court, Equifax then sought to have the venue changed and moved to the Northern District of Georgia. Equifax is headquartered in Atlanta and claimed that “all documents, data, and witnesses pertinent to the claim are also located there” which made it a far more suitable location to litigate the dispute. The Court however rejected the change in venue due to the concern that any FCRA claim would force all plaintiffs to bring claims in districts far from where they live, “a burden that would inevitably undermine enforcement of federal consumer protection laws under the system of private litigation that Congress sought to incentivize.” The Court predicated their belief on the fact that in the e-commerce era credit reporting agencies operate nationwide and impact the lives of people hundreds or thousands of miles from the agencies’ headquarters and do so not at the behest of the person who is being reported on. After analyzing the procedural rules for changes in venue pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court articulated that Congress has repeatedly amended the FCRA to promote private enforcement and to allow all credit agencies to force plaintiffs to litigate elsewhere would stop private enforcement. Further the balance of convenience strongly favored and required maintaining venue in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where the plaintiff resides.

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