CFPB Orders TransUnion and Equifax to Pay for Deceiving Consumers in Marketing Credit Scores
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today announced it has taken action against Equifax and TransUnion for deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers. The companies also lured consumers into costly recurring payments for credit-related products with false promises.
The CFPB said that from 2011 to March 2014, TransUnion and Equifax falsely represented that the credit scores they marketed and provided to consumers were the same scores lenders typically use to make credit decisions. In fact, the scores were not typically used by lenders. Plus, TransUnion and Equifax falsely claimed that their credit scores and related products were free or, in the case of TransUnion, cost only “$1.” In fact, consumers who signed up received a free trial of seven or 30 days, after which they were automatically enrolled in a subscription program. Unless they cancelled during the trial period, consumers were charged a recurring fee – usually $16 or more per month, a type of abusive billing, known as a “negative option.” Equifax also violated the FCRA by requiring consumers to first view advertising before they could get their free annual report.
The specific orders are as follows:
- Pay more than $17.6 million in total restitution to harmed consumers: TransUnion must provide more than $13.9 million in restitution to affected consumers. Equifax must pay $3.8 million in restitution to affected consumers. The companies must send letters about the restitution to affected consumers.
- Truthfully represent the usefulness of credit scores it sells: TransUnion and Equifax must clearly inform consumers about the nature of the scores they are selling to consumers.
- Obtain the express informed consent of consumers: Before enrolling a consumer in any credit-related product with a negative option feature, TransUnion and Equifax must obtain the consumer’s consent.
- Provide an easy way to cancel products and services: TransUnion and Equifax must give consumers a simple, easy-to-understand way to cancel the purchase of any credit-related product, and stop billing and collecting payments for any recurring charge when a consumer cancels.
- Pay $5.5 million in total penalties: TransUnion must pay $3 million to the Bureau’s civil penalty fund. Equifax must pay $2.5 million to the Bureau’s civil penalty fund.