FreeCreditReport.com Gets Its Due
It’s about time! Finally, after a protected battle, the FTC is making the credit bureau Experian stop misleading people with its FreeCreditReport.com website. I blogged about this site several years ago:
This strikes me as “deceptive” advertising. True, the fine print discloses that the report isn’t free and provides the URL to AnnualCreditReport.com. But Experian seems to be exploiting the FACT Act, which required the credit reporting agencies to provide free credit reports. A statutory responsibility to protect consumers is turned into a money-making opportunity for Experian. This practice strikes me as deeply problematic.
As Bob Sullivan at MSNBC reports:
The singer of those FreeCreditReport.com jingles might sound a bit less peppy now that the Federal Trade Commission is making the company behind the ads — credit bureau Experian — face the music. Heavy-handed disclosures aimed at ending years-long confusion over free credit reports will begin to appear in the ads next month. The changes are among new consumer protections enacted by Congress in the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act.
In one disclosure viewed by msnbc.com, the top of the FreeCreditReport.com Web site was covered with a large grey block with type that read: “You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com … the only authorized source under federal law,” with an obvious link to the site. Consumers who still want to sign up with FreeCreditReport.com would have to scroll down and enroll in the paid service offered by Experian. . . .
Many Web sites, including FreeCreditReport.com, claim to offer free credit reports, but do so only as a come-on for costly credit monitoring subscriptions services.
Market leader Experian, which owns the coveted FreeCreditReport.com Web address, began advertising heavily in 2003 after Congress mandated that U.S. consumers were entitled to a free copy of their credit reports every year. The FTC has been in a legal battle with the site ever since. Experian has been forced to issue refunds and pay more than $1 million in fines, but that didn’t quiet the crooning of Eric Violette, the star of the FreeCreditReport.com ads.