Friday, April 9, 2010

Experian and FreeCreditReport.com Sink to a New Low

Original posted on Credit Slips by Bob Lawless:

One of the many banes of my existence is FreeCreditReport.com. Not only do their ads play incessantly during any sporting event that I care to watch, but my children also used to walk around the house singing the catchy tunes featured in the commercials. That behavior--along with all other forms of fun--has been banned in the Lawless household. And, I suppose I have raised an existential question of whether one can have multiple banes against one's being.

FreeCreditReport.com, of course, is not free. To use the service, you must enroll in "Triple Advantage," a credit monitoring service that you can get for the not-so-low price of $14.95/month. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had recently taken action to prevent these sorts of abusive practices. Under rules that just went into effect, any web site that purported to offer a "free" credit report had to include prominent text and a link at the top of the page directing consumers to AnnualCreditReport.com, which is the legitimate site offering consumers to request a free credit report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

In what appears to be a transparent attempt to evade this new regulation, FreeCreditReport.com's owner, Experian, has begun charging $1 for FreeCreditReport.com and says it will donate the $1 to charity. Under Experian's reasoning, FreeCreditReport.com is no longer "free," and hence it doesn't have to comply with the new FTC rule. Will it comply with truth-in-advertising laws (and common decency) and rename its site "OneDollarCreditReport.com?" That won't make for as catchy of a tune, I suppose.

For further information, read Ron Lieber's article in the New York Times about Experian's move and the FTC's web site about free annual credit reports. There is also the news that the actor in the FreeCreditReport.com ads is French-Canadian, now making poutine only the second-most questionable cultural development to come out of Quebec.

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