N.J. sued for requiring credit reports in Spanish, 10 other languages

Oct 21, 2019

An association representing consumer reporting agencies filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday seeking to block a New Jersey state law that requires credit reports be made available in Spanish and 10 other languages.

The Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Data Industry Association claims the new state law is preempted by the federal credit reporting statute, and that it violates the First Amendment by “compelling speech” in other languages.

“The law is well-intentioned, and we want consumers to be able to access and understand their credit reports, but we have concerns that we are hoping to address in court,” said Eric Ellman, CDIA’s senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs, in a statement.

A spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is named in the lawsuit, declined to comment.

The law, which took effect Thursday, only applies to national credit reporting agencies, such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, which CDIA represents.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation in July, and lawmakers applauded it as a victory for non-English-speaking residents.

It forces consumer reporting agencies that operate nationwide to offer credit reports to their New Jersey customers in Spanish and the 10 other most commonly spoken languages in the state.

Beverly Brown Ruggia, the financial justice organizer for the nonprofit New Jersey Citizen Action, said speakers of other languages with low credit scores may fail to catch errors in their credit reports if they are written in English, which could hurt their job and housing prospects.

“If your credit score is wrong, and it’s because you haven’t been able to see your credit report and understand it in order to correct mistakes, that’s really quite unjust,” she said.