The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sent letters to six specialty credit-reporting agencies warning that they could be breaking the law by not making it easy for people to get a free annual copy of their consumer reports.

Consumers have the right to a report each year from credit-reporting companies, which collect information and report on check-writing, medical payments and other transactions, the consumer watchdog reported.

But some of these private companies fail to provide toll-free numbers or lack a simple process for consumers to obtain a free report, according to the CFPB.

The CFPB did not name the firms, which could face enforcement actions if it determines they are breaking the law.

Kent Markus, assistant director for enforcement at the CFPB, said the bureau reviewed nationwide specialty reporting agencies to see if they could find out from their Web sites how to request a report and if staff were prepared to provide a report when someone called to ask for one.

"This is a due diligence moment for the industry," Markus said during a conference call with reporters.

The six companies that received warning letters were asked to respond within 30 days explaining steps they have taken to comply with the law.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law created the consumer bureau and charged it with regulating products such as mortgage loans and credit cards. The CFPB also oversees a federal law that requires credit-reporting companies to give consumers a free report each year.

"Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies can have great influence over a consumer's tenancy, insurance premiums, or even employment," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "If we have reason to believe that companies are not following the law, we will take action."

Nationwide specialty reporting companies - as well as the traditional credit reporting businesses such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - must provide a streamlined process for consumers obtain the reports.

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