FTC Finally Forces FreeCreditReport.com To Be Honest In Its Advertising
from the it-ain't-really-free dept
It’s been many years since we first wrote about the scammy services set up by the major credit reporting agencies to pretend to give you your federally guaranteed free credit report. The worst of the bunch has been FreeCreditReport.com, run by Experian, which despite its name, was actually just a way to get people to sign up for costly monthly credit monitoring services. The place to get your real free credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com, but FreeCreditReport.com tricked an awful lot of people into believing it was the real site, leading many to end up paying money (a lot of it) when they just wanted their mandated free report.
The FTC has been battling Experian and the other rating agencies for years over this blatantly misleading advertising. The misleading ads have been incredibly lucrative for Experian, who apparently has convinced an astounding 20 million people to sign up for FreeCreditReport, and spends $70 million per year in advertising to get more people to sign up. For all that, the FTC forced Experian to pay a measly $1 million in fines (and refund money to plenty of customers), but you can understand why Experian has kept up its misleading adverising.
However, Experian and the other credit reporting agencies are now required to clearly disclose what’s going on, and they’re testing much more straightforward messages on their websites. For example, MSNBC reports that some visitors to FreeCreditReport are already seeing a giant gray box at the top of the page with text that reads:
“You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com … the only authorized source under federal law,”
And, with it, there’s a link and a call to action: “Take me to the authorized source.”