New Rules for “Free” Credit Reports

In 2003, the federal Government required the three national credit agencies to establish a website where consumers could download their credit reports free, once a year. Unfortunately, the Government foolishly allowed the agencies to include advertising on the site, www.annualcreditreport.com. The agencies’ advertising confused consumers into believing they had to pay for a credit score or credit monitoring services to get their free report.

The three agencies also set up their own “free” sites where consumers could download their credit reports. For example, Experian’s site, www.freecrdeditreport.com, was heavily advertised on TV and purposely designed so consumers thought they were going to the true free site. Once there, consumers ended up paying for their credit score or worthless credit monitoring services.

Too late, but better than never, the FTC has imposed new rules effective April 1, 2010, to reduce the confusion. Under the new rule, any website that mentions free reports has to have a notice across the top of the site that the consumer may have the right to a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Similar disclosures will be required for TV and radio ads effective September 1, 2010.

On the Government site, beginning April 1, the credit agencies cannot advertise until after the consumer gets his or her free credit report from the site.

Question is, why did it take 7 years for the Government to get this right? I suppose one answer is that the Bush Administration did next to nothing for the consumer.

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