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Your greatest credit hits (and misses), available on CD

Brady Porche

What would you do if you received your credit report on an audio CD instead of in print or a PDF?

Would you pop it into your car’s CD player, roll your windows down and cruise to the sounds of your payment history? If you were born in the mid- to late-’90s, you might stare at it blankly and wonder why Equifax is sending you vintage audio equipment.

One California man was apparently livid after he received his credit report on two discs instead of something he could read. David Schroeder was named as the plaintiff in a November class-action lawsuit against TransUnion, claiming the company sent his and others’ reports on audio CDs without their consent. (The Fair Credit Reporting Act only allows audio credit reports to be sent if the consumer has provided prior authorization.)

Schroeder claimed the audio credit report — which clocked in at 116 minutes over 36 tracks — caused him “unnecessary delay, inconvenience and frustration” and made it difficult for him to identify potential errors. He is seeking up to $1,000 in damages, plus legal fees.

The run time of Schroeder’s credit report is 11 minutes longer than George Harrison’s 1970 post-Beatles triple LP “All Things Must Pass” — a marathon collection of songs Harrison had written while his bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned most of the Fab Four’s hits.

Critics consider it a classic album, but even the most die-hard George devotee may find it hard to digest nearly two solid hours of music in one sitting. Try listening instead to what the lawsuit describes as a “robotic voice” droning on and on for that amount of time, listing every payment you’ve made or missed since the first time you took out a loan or obtained a credit card. Anyone would be ready for a legal confrontation or worse after that.

An audio credit report may not be a fun listening experience, but it’s quite useful for those with poor or no vision. As per a 2008 agreement, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion provide credit reports to blind and visually impaired consumers in Braille, large print, audio CD and other formats upon request. The bureaus also agreed to design online credit reports to be accessible to those who use screen reader or magnification technology and rely on their keyboards instead of a mouse. Blind and visually impaired consumers can get their alternate-format credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com or by contacting the bureaus directly.

But even blind consumers don’t have to sit through an entire CD of payment information due to recent advances in mobile technology. September 2014 saw the release of KNFB Reader — an app that harnesses state-of-the-art document analysis technology to scan printed text and read it aloud to the user. The app is acclaimed by users for its accuracy and customizable features, and can help anyone with a visual impairment comb through a printed credit report for errors quickly and efficiently.

It remains to be seen why TransUnion sent CDs to consumers who didn’t ask for them, and why Schroeder and his cohorts didn’t simply try again for readable reports. Perhaps it was just a mix-up that will get increasingly rare over time. As technology to assist the blind evolves, credit reports on CD could soon be a relic of the past — just like cassettes, vinyl records and 8-tracks.

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