Finance Globe

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FTC Extends Consumer Comment Period for "Free Credit Report Rule"

Consumers have until December 7, 2009 to make a comment on the recently issued proposal to amend the "Free Credit Report Rule" (formally the Free Annual File Disclosures Rule), the The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced today.

The FTC posted the proposed rule on their website on October 7, 2009 and stated that public comments were to be submitted no later than November 30, 2009 - but decided to extend the deadline for another week after recent requests to do so.

Most consumers are aware that we are all entitled, by law, to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The free credit reports may be obtained from all three bureaus at once, or we can order one from each bureau every several months to keep an eye on our credit throughout the year.

Utilizing this important service helps us monitor our credit to protect against runaway identity theft, and also keeps us informed of credit issues that we may need to work on to improve our credit.

But, several commercial credit services have taken advantage of the well-known law to confuse consumers about where to get their free credit report. Many consumers know they get a free report, but some aren't aware that they must get it at the one and only source authorized by the federal government at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

If the consumer goes directly through the credit bureau or through a credit monitoring site, they will have to pay to get their credit report (unless they have been denied credit, or employment due to their credit in the last 60 days. In this case they are also entitled, by law, to a free credit report from the bureau that reported to the creditor or employer who denied them.)

A common confusion involves advertisements featuring guitar players and catchy jingles that mislead and confuse consumers into believing they are getting the free credit report as required by law, when in reality, the consumer is actually required to subscribe to a credit monitoring service in order to receive their "free credit report."
The FTC even fought back earlier this year with their own videos, musicians, and jingles to warn consumers not to be tricked by other services claiming to give free credit reports. You can see the videos on the FTC's website at http://ftc.gov/multimedia/video/credit/annual-credit-report-videos.shtm.

The FTC has received numerous consumer complaints about promotions for commercial products and services that confuse and frustrate consumers as they attempt to obtain their free annual credit reports. The proposed amendments would implement a new law designed to prevent consumer confusion in advertisements, and to prevent the deceptive marketing of "free credit reports."

Specifically, it is proposed that certain advertisements for "free credit reports" include prominent disclosures designed to prevent consumers from confusing these "free" offers with the federally-mandated free annual credit. The proposed disclosure requirements will apply to ads on television, radio, print, Internet, and any other media in which "free credit reports" may be advertised.

For example, for any Internet site offering free credit reports, the FTC proposes a requirement that, before the consumer may obtain a credit report from that Web site, the site must first display a separate landing page with the required disclosure: "This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law. To get your free report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228."

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires the FTC to issue a rule by February 22, 2010, to prevent deceptive marketing of "free credit reports." Consumers can make a comment electronically to the FTC at http://public.commentworks.com/ftc/FreeCreditReportNPRM/.

The FTC requests that consumers make their comments electronically, unless the comment contains material that should be classified as confidential. In that case, the first page of the document should clearly be labeled "confidential." Both the document and the envelope should be labeled with the reference "Free Annual Report – Comment, Project No. R411004" and sent to Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex T), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

The FTC is the nation's consumer protection agency against fraudulent, deceptive, and abusive business practices.


Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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