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Mary Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

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This case, decided on September 7, 2005, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, does not directly involve a financial institution, although credit information supplied by US Bank was the trigger that set off the suit. We include it here strictly because of a comment in the court's decision that has little to do with the matters decided, but sends a message to anyone concerned with clear and effective communication.

The case involves a claim by Ruffin-Thompkins that Experian, by failing to properly handle her dispute of information supplied by US Bank, violated the FCRA. Ruffin-Thompkins' appeal failed on several technical grounds. However, the appeals court's opinion includes a suggestion that Experian's communications methods are deserving of scrutiny. After Circuit Judge Kanne offers, "It seems that Experian has a systemic problem in its limited categorization of the inquiries it receives and its cryptic notices and responses," he notes that this potential problem didn't get reviewed in the court's deliberations because Ruffin-Thompkins' appeal was defeated on other grounds.

There's a lesson here for anyone concerned with framing an institution's customer communications: Make sure your message is complete and understandable.

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