Equifax began in a Tennessee grocery store in 1898.


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Equifax began in a Tennessee grocery store in 1898.

Equifax began in a Tennessee grocery store in 1898. The proprietor compiled a list of customers he considered to be creditworthy, and distributed that list to other business owners (for a fee). Demand was immediate. The business grew. New branches opened and the company incorporated in 1913. By 1920, the company had 37 branch offices throughout North America.

Over the decades, Equifax and its predecessor, Retail Credit, Inc., experimented with different ways to grow the business. Priorities shifted, certain operations were spun off as separate companies, competitors were bought out. By the mid 1960s, consumer data on paper index cards was transferred to electronic storage. Investigation into consumer credit history was still done by inspectors, and data-gathering practices were often questionable in the contexts of professionalism and privacy. In 1974, Retail Credit, Inc. found itself in the crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission following the 1971 passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Among many changes, investigators could no longer misrepresent themselves and their motives when out collecting information. In the early 1990s, Equifax refined its privacy policies even further and stopped using credit data for direct marketing purposes, or to categorize consumers based on their buying habits. Over time, Equifax’s credit reporting (and access to its data) began to resemble what we see today.

Retail Credit became Equifax in 1979. The name derives from “equitable factual information.” By 1986, the company deployed data on 150 million consumers. And by 1987 Equifax operated in all 50 states. The company continues to narrow its core business focus and respond to consumer concerns. Today, Equifax serves companies and consumers in 19 nations and generates 150 billion credit score updates each month.

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