Free credit report confusion addressed


Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every year. But there are certain advertisements that have confused the issue greatly, and the FTC is putting together new rules as mandated by Congress to clear up the matter. All media are roped into this project.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires the Commission to issue a rule by 2/22/10, to prevent deceptive marketing of allegedly free credit reports.

The solution in most cases will be prominent disclaimers “designed to prevent consumers from confusing these ‘free’ offers with the federally mandated free annual credit reports available through the ‘centralized source,’ which is, or 877-322-8228.”

The FTC has put together disclosures for “television, radio, print, Internet, and other media in which ‘free credit report’ advertising may occur, along with requirements to ensure that the disclosures are sufficiently prominent.”

Here’s the scoop for radio and television: Any advertisement must include the language, “This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law.” TV stations must make that statement both visually and in audio. There may also be an interim requirement to communicate another message: “Free credit reports are available under Federal law at:”

There are additional requirements for other media, particularly internet based operations. For example, citizens attempting to get their free annual report are frequently exposed to barrages of advertising – the FTC would deal with this by “delaying such advertising until after consumers obtain their free annual credit reports, and by requiring other measures.”