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Hoping to end confusion for consumers, the Federal Trade Commission has mandated that all Web sites offering “free” credit reports post a prominent disclaimer that they aren’t the federal site that offers truly free reports. The disclaimer must appear at the top of the site and say this:

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.

I hear from a lot of readers who’ve tried to get their federally-mandated free credit reports from one of these lookalike sites, and instead been duped into buying credit monitoring or other products. So in my view, the disclaimers are long overdue.

Except Experian, one of the companies that has benefited from the confusion, has done a end run around the new regulation. Instead of posting the required disclaimer at FreeCreditReport.com, they’re now charging you a dollar and saying this:

Due to federally imposed restrictions it is no longer feasible for us to provide you with a free Experian Credit Report. So for now we’ll be charging you $1 for your Report. But instead of keeping your $1, we’ll donate 100% of the proceeds to DonorsChoose.org, an online charity providing funds to classrooms in need.

There is a notice at the top of the site, where the federal disclaimer would otherwise be, outlining what FreeCreditReport.com is all about–signing you up for credit monitoring for $14.95 a month.

But Experian’s refusal to make it clear that FreeCreditReport.com isn’t the federal site, and the picture of the smirking 20-somethings from its musical ads, leaves the impression that Experian thinks thumbing its nose at regulators, and consumers, is cute or clever.

Here’s a news flash, boys: it’s neither. It just stinks.

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Man, that is sleazy. I really wonder who they think they’re fooling with this. In the first sentence, they’re clearly trying to imply that the government is making it “infeasible” for them to offer free credit reports by (one assumes) imposing some kind of surtax or onerous restriction on them if they do, thus forcing them to recoup the costs from the consumer. Then, just one sentence later, they say they’ll just be giving the $1 to charity anyway–basically contradicting the earlier implication that they needed the money.

Are they just hoping people don’t notice how ridiculous and contradictory that is? And seriously, if they think that by making their free credit reports not technically “free” in this absurd way, that they will escape the regulation…the FTC does not like this sort of game-playing.

And this is the same bureau that won’t even SELL their FICO scores to consumers, at any price. What is wrong with these people?