If FreeCreditReport.com Doesn't Even Offer A Free Credit Report… Is That Truth In Advertising?

from the just-wondering dept

It’s no secret that FreeCreditReport.com, a site owned by Experian, has always been somewhat misleading in its marketing (okay, very misleading), getting people to get a “free credit report” that is not the government mandated free credit report, and whose entire program was really about upselling people to expensive credit monitoring services. However, we noted back in March that the FTC was finally forcing the site to be more honest in its marketing — including a clear and conspicuous link to the real free credit report offering. But now, reports are coming out that FreeCreditReport.com isn’t offering anything for free any more. The report you used to get for free is now a dollar. And, even though they promise to donate that dollar to charity, it makes you wonder: could the domain name itself be considered false advertising?

Of course, the reason why Experian is charging that dollar seems even more misleading than its old advertising program:

The new F.T.C. rules went into effect on April 2, and they required sites to include a prominent notice across the top of each Web page that mentioned free reports declaring that the only authorized source under federal law for such reports is annualcreditreport.com.

Rather than include such disclosures, Experian added the $1 charge, saying that “due to federally imposed restrictions, it is no longer feasible for us to provide you” with a free credit report. And now that the report costs $1, the new F.T.C. rule would presumably no longer apply.

Yes, you read that right. It’s trying to make the FTC look bad for requiring the company to actually be honest… and, in doing so, is pretending that this means it no longer has to be honest. An Experian spokesperson explained it this way:

The offer for the $1 report is very clear and in compliance with the F.T.C.’s rule,” she said in an e-mail reply to questions. “There is no express or implied offer on our site for a free report.”

Other than the domain, you mean?

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Companies: experian, freecreditreport.com

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Comments on “If FreeCreditReport.com Doesn't Even Offer A Free Credit Report… Is That Truth In Advertising?”

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Danny says:

I mean really....

If I’m not mistaken most banks will generate a credit report for you for like $20-30. For something as serious as one’s credit report is it really worth that hassle to try to hustle a free one (once used you’ve used the mandated one)?

The reason this is working is because people are trying to figure out how to get a free lunch. Its wrong to deceive people but the once behind this site wouldn’t have done it if there was no chance of getting people wrapped up in it.

william (profile) says:

Re: I mean really....

I am having a hard time understanding your second paragraph.

It’s not people trying to figure out how to get a free lunch. It IS suppose to be free. What you are implying, if I understand you correctly, is when you have a product you used to sell but now giving out for free, at the cost of the seller, ie. free lunch from a bar. It is by law that they must provide one free report per year if requested.

You are in effect trying to make people look/feel bad because they ask what they are entitled to.

a-dub (profile) says:

Re: Re: I mean really....

You are referring to annualcreditreport.com, which will provide you with those free reports. Freecreditreport.com used to give you free credit reports but more importantly, they gave you a free credit score too (which all three reporting agencies charge for). I signed up with freecreditreport.com to get the free score. You have to provide a credit card but if you cancel within 30 days, there is no charge. When I called to cancel, the representative attempted to use tactics to get me to change my mind, but I simply told her “I am at work and dont have time to discuss my reasons for cancelling, please just do it.” And that was it.

interval says:

Re: Re:

Be more afraid of the hundreds of banks, businesses and etc that retain copies of all the information necessary to access your liquid accounts and how little those institutions regard the security of that information. I for one think they have some balls to occasionally let that information leak and give you a rash of crap when you try to get your life back. And when it happens it not only happens to you but to hundreds, maybe thousands of people at a time. And they still hold YOU responsible for that stolen data. Its ridiculous.

Grey Ferret says:

Definition of "Free"

Perhaps “Free” just means that they will release (set free) your credit report to you.

The definition of the word “Free” doesn’t necessarily imply that something is without monetary cost. It just means that it is free from some sort of restriction.

That being said, “Free” is still often used in misleading ways because the broad definition of the word allows it to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've seen this problem before.

I believe the band “Bare Naked Ladies” had a similar problem when they were originally called “Free Beer”.

The bar owners forced them to change name because customers were getting angry, as they were going to the bar becuase of “Free Beer.”

You mean they don’t still have this problem?

Designerfx (profile) says:

$1 to charity = profit

that means the profit is around…what, 35%?

Considering they donate the dollar to charity means they get the $1 discounted off their taxable income at no cost to them.

I’m sick of companies doing this all the time. It’s totally disgusting, and lots do it.

Dollar’s not really being donated to charity, it’s being donated to tax dodging.

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess Experian must act differently in the US to the UK. I recently used their free 30 day trial period to check my credit report and had no issues. Their website is very clear that if you want your credit score it’s an extra £10.

I didn’t need my score so I didn’t pay the £10. They even have a free phone number to call when you want to cancel the free 30 day trial.

In fact going one step further, in the UK there are a number of cash back sites which give you all of the referral fee they earn for you clicking through to a product and placing an order. If you use these sites you can actually make money, about £5, for using a free credit report!

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