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:
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.