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Your Take: Common Sense vs. FreeCreditReport.com

If you’ve ever watched a television in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly seen the FreeCreditReport.com commercials with the guy playing the banjo. In recent months, Experian, the parent company of FreeCreditReport.com, has come under fire because:

  1. The credit reports are free, if you remember to cancel the trial (big if!).
  2. Consumers have been educated by the FTC that they can get a copy of their credit report for free once every 12 months, no strings attached… except they have to go to AnnualCreditReport.com, not FreeCreditReport.com.
  3. Consumers are, knowingly or unknowingly, signing up for the trial service, getting their free credit score and reports, and then not canceling.

FreeCreditReport.com recently changed its name to FreeCreditScore.com as a result of new government regulation.

So, in early November, the Bucks blog on the New York Times [3] wrote about how Senator Chuck Schumer of New York wants the FTC to force Experian to give you your free report and score before they ask for the credit card information. This was largely shelved because the CARD Act [4] included a provision that required credit report services to include a disclaimer.

I understand the need to police overtly scammy negative option billing practices but how much intervention is too much? I think it was right for the FTC to force Experian to notify visitors to FreeCreditReport.com that they are not affiliated with the free credit report program. It’s also good that the site informs you that you are signing up for a free 7-day trial. It should also be clear that you will be charged for it after the trial because otherwise they wouldn’t ask for your credit card information! (to be clear, I’m fine with the regulation as it stands now… but I didn’t like Senator Schumer’s idea of forcing Experian to change their business practices in that way)

So at what point do we stop? At what point does common sense get completely thrown out and replaced with regulation? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.