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Credit agencies must follow procedures

Dear Lawyer Mark, I am having trouble with a credit bureau over my file and I want to share this with you and your readers.

My husband and I applied for a credit card at a certain bank I will not mention. The bank turned down our application claiming we had a bad credit report.

The first thing I found out is I have a right to look at my credit bureau file. I next learned that it is amazing what gets in there and how some of what gets in there gets messed up.

What the bureau reported was sometimes way wrong; sometimes only partly true (yes we were late in payment but there was a good reason for the tardiness); and sometimes true but misleading.

Anyway my question is now that I am aware of my file, what can I do to clean up the problems and mistakes?

Thanks for your help,

— Out Of Credit On Center Street

Dear Out Of Credit,

In 1970, Congress adopted a law called the “Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which has had some amendments since then. That law sets forth procedures for which credit agencies must follow when preparing and releasing credit reports.

You not only have a right to review your file, you also may demand the agency reinvestigate any information you believe is wrong, and you may place a statement in the file disputing what is reported. The act further allows you to sue the agency for noncompliance.

You should also know that the credit bureau is not allowed to show your file to just anyone. Privacy is restricted to certain enumerated “permissible uses.” Included in that category are employment and credit matters.

Dear Lawyer Mark:

With all the great deals on computers now, my wife and I decided to finally break down and buy one. My wife figured that if we get on e-mail, she can contact our daughter out west every day, and the money we save in phone bills will probably pay for the computer in a year.

I figure we’ll simply get stuck paying for a new computer in addition to paying for all the calls, but that’s another story. Anyway, as we opened some software, I noticed that it said we couldn’t use it on more than one computer, and that we could only copy it to make a “back up” version. How can a computer company tell us what we can and can’t do with something after we buy it?

— Internet-Bound In Ironton

Dear Internet:

Actually, when you “purchased” the program, legally you didn’t really buy the program itself. The directive from the software company you were talking about is called a licensing agreement.

According to the way software sales are set up, what you are really doing is buying the right to use the program, not buying the program itself. The licensing agreement contains a description of the rights you are actually buying, as well as the limitations that the company is placing on the use of the program. By just selling you a right to use the program, the company can set forth any restrictions on its use that they wish, and can take legal action against you for violating the agreement. While some people claim that this is unfair, the reality of the situation is that it would be impossible to develop complex programs and sell them cheaply if anyone could copy the materials as much as they wanted.

You can e-mail your next question to Mark on the net: LawyerMark@yahoo.com.

Its The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Ave., Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.