Who says the government moves slowly? You get no argument here. After eight years of being passed as part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, new consumer protection regulations are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2011.

To prepare us for these new rules, the Federal Reserve has made available an online consumers' guide to credit scores and credit reports which not only outlines the new rules but gives you a refresher course on what a credit score is, how it is used and why it's important to protect your credit history, as if we didn't already know.

What you probably don't know are the new that rules Congress passed eight years ago. They will require lenders to tell you when negative information on your credit reports is going to mean you will have to pay higher interest rates and fees for loans such as mortgages and credit cards.

Basically, the new rules require creditors to provide consumers with what's known as a "risk-based pricing notice" when the creditor provides credit on less favorable terms than it provides other consumers. Under the rules, consumers hit with the less favorable credit terms can also obtain a free credit report to check its accuracy.

The Consumer's Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores  tells you what you should do if you find errors. First contact the credit bureau to formally dispute any mistakes. But then you have to wait for the credit bureau to investigate, which usually takes 30 days.

The goal with the new rules is to alert you to any negative information on your credit reports so you can make any corrections, which could lead to better loan terms. Creditors offer better terms to consumers with good credit histories and more costly credit to consumers with poor credit histories.

While a step in the right direction, consumer advocates say more needs to be done to address concerns about credit scores and inaccurate credit reports. They say once you finds an error on a credit report, it's difficult to correct it.