Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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"Free Credit Reports" Rule Amended to End Consumer Confusion

Most consumers are aware that they have access to a free credit report from all three major credit reporting bureaus each and every year, entitled by federal law. But sometimes that's just where the confusion begins. Musicians playing catchy jingles with "free credit report" said over and over in an advertisement can easily mislead any consumer into believing that they are getting the free credit report authorized by federal law when they respond to one of these ads.

Upon requesting their "free" credit report with the advertiser, the consumer then realizes they have to enroll in a monthly service for a monthly fee, such as a credit monitoring service, in order to get what they thought they were supposed to get for free.

What many consumers are not aware of is that in order to receive their no-strings-attached free credit report that federal law entitles them to, they must request their credit report from the only source authorized by federal law at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Advertisers for various credit services have taken advantage of consumer confusion long enough. As required by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission has amended the Free Credit Reports Rule to require new disclosures to prevent deceptive marketing of "free credit reports."

The CARD Act required that certain advertisements for "free credit reports" were to include prominent disclosures designed to prevent consumers from confusing these "free" offers with the federally mandated free annual credit reports available through the centralized source.

Starting April 1, 2010, advertisements for "free credit reports" will be required to head all ads with a disclosure to inform consumers where to get their truly free credit report. For example, a website that offers free credit reports must display the following message across the top of each page that mentions free credit reports:


THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV.
You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.

The disclosure on the website must also have a clickable link to "Take me to the authorized source" and clickable links to AnnualCreditReport.com and FTC.GOV. The FTC issued the new rule to prevent deceptive marketing of "free credit reports" - a practice that's been costing consumers money for years.

Between now and April 1, the required disclosures will read: "Free credits reports are available under Federal law at: AnnualCreditReport.com."

The amended Rule also restricts practices that might confuse or mislead consumers as they try to get their federally mandated free annual credit reports. For example, the amended Rule requires nationwide consumer reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to delay any advertising for products or services on AnnualCreditReport.com until after consumers get their free credit reports.

The amended Rule is effective April 1, 2010, except for the wording of the disclosures for television and radio advertisements, which takes effect on September 1, 2010. The FTC plans to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the amended rule and the required disclosures, and will consider additional changes as necessary.

Information in credit reports may affect whether consumers can get a loan or a job, so it is important that consumers check their credit reports and correct any information that is inaccurate. Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies is required to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit reports once every 12 months upon request. Consumers can learn more about their right to a free credit report under federal law at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.



Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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Monday, 14 October 2019

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