An estimated 20 percent of consumers likely will receive a credit score that's different from the one given to lenders, potentially limiting access to credit for millions of Americans, according a study released Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report each year, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Consumer advocates have charged that credit-reporting companies provide varying scores to lenders, likely raising the cost of credit or depriving consumers of it entirely.

The study comes five days before the consumer agency, created by the Dodd-Frank law of 2010, starts supervising credit-reporting companies’ records and practices. The work involves direct review of an estimated 30 businesses, including Equifax Inc., TransUnion Corp. and Experian Plc.  

“This study highlights the complexities consumers face in the credit scoring market," Richard Cordray, CFPB's director, wrote in an e-mailed statement. “When consumers buy a credit score, they should be aware that a lender may be using a very different score in making a credit decision."

The CFPB further found that consumers are unlikely to know about the discrepancies between the score they receive and the score lenders see.

“Consumers who have reviewed their own score may expect a certain price from a lender, may waste time and effort applying for loans they are not qualified for, or may accept offers that are worse than they could get,” according to the study.

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