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?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    Uh oh...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:44pm

    The domain and those goofy ass annoying commercials.

     

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  3.  
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    Danny, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    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.

     

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  4.  
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    william (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    It make me sick with fear that my credit rating is being kept by a company that uses shady business practice so blatantly.

    I am afraid that the day will come for them to hold my credit rating as hostage and charge me something.

     

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  5.  
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    Grey Ferret, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:50pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    william (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    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.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:55pm

    Re: I mean really....

    Yes, that's right, it's someone else's fault.

    And if she hadn't been wearing slutty clothes...

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    Re: I mean really....

    Unless I'm mistaken, its actually one free report per year from EACH credit reporting company - so you are actually entitled to 3 free reports per year. Spread those out, and you can get one every 4 months.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:05pm

    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."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    A Dan (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re: I mean really....

    In my experience it's usually been because people are trying to get their annualcreditreport.com reports and don't realize that they're at the wrong site. Anecdotal, I know, but that's been my experience.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    a-dub (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Jon B., Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: I mean really....

    The government-mandated free one doesn't include a score. It may be worth paying your bank to run a report and give you a score. Checking for errors is worth doing for free, but getting the hard number is helpful too.

    Or, just go to a bank and get prequalified for a mortgage for free.

     

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  13.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    $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.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Don't know what you're talking about

    Annual Credit Report site sent me a full report with scores. This was last year.

    So are you saying they no longer provide the score because people were actually finding it useful? That's messed up.

     

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  15.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: $1 to charity = profit

    Someone obviously doesn't know how taxes work. They may be able to deduct that $1 since it is paid out as a donation, but that $1 also goes in as income. So the net is $0, not negative $1. In no way does it allow them to pay less in taxes than would have if they had been providing a free report.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Uh oh...

    Server not found

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Danny (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    If you just read this, you owe me a dollar. Send it to Mike.

    How is this any different from all those late night TV products offered for free, just pay shipping and handling - and there is a decent profit margin built into the handling charge?

    In fact, if they really are giving the money to charity, it probably is different in a good way.

     

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  19.  
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    Phillip Vector (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re: Uh oh...

    That's because he took it down.. DUH!! ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:21pm

    Re: Uh oh...

    Why, we all know that is true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:25pm

    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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  22.  
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    exxxon.com, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    free gasoline

    :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    Re:

    My experience with some of these types of "Free" affiliate programs is dicey. Look carefully. Some of these guys will pay for your credit score if you agree to let them sell the info to third party marketing companies.

    Free credit score and free junk mail = fun for everyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    interval, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    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.

     

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  25.  
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    Wolfy, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:11pm

    I'm surprised that there are still "truth in advertising" laws. The blatant lying in the electric and print media by corporations has been so rampant that I had the impression they were repealed, or "adjusted" out of existence by the last 40 years of rethuglican congress'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:19pm

    Re: Uh oh...

    Did you actually register that????

    "This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:49pm

    BOYCOTT!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    Re: Don't know what you're talking about

    Annual Credit Report =/= Free Credit Report.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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