"Notices as common as these would take on the character of formalities, and formalities tend to be ignored,'' Justice David Souter wrote for seven of the court's nine justices.
The court also unanimously limited the applicability of a provision that permits damage awards even when consumers don't suffer any injury. Although the justices didn't go as far as the insurance industry had sought, they said Safeco wasn't subject to the provision because it didn't recklessly violate the law.
The insurance industry had said it faced the prospect of billions of dollars in damage claims had it lost the high court case. Some 2,600 lawsuits alleging violations of the fair-credit law are pending in federal courts.
The "most critical aspects'' of the ruling favored the industry, said David F. Snyder, a lawyer with the American Insurance Association. "The Supreme Court balanced both consumer needs and business needs in a common-sense decision.''