16 CFR Part 610 Amendments to Rule to Prevent Deceptive Marketing of Credit Reports and to Ensure Access to Free Annual File Disclosures
I strongly support the FTC's effort to strengthen consumer protection by making the AnnualCreditReport.com site truly commercial and deception free. I used this site for several years now, and have gotten used to navigating around the Bureau ads that want to sell me things like credit score monitoring and other fee services. For the uninitiated, the current site very easily lures individuals into paying for unnecessary or unwanted services, when all they really wanted is their yearly, free credit report. Both my young adult daughters went to the AnnualCreditReport site earlier this year to get their free reports. Several months later, both came to me, complaining that the free reports I had told them about were not really free. I asked for details, and as reporters like Michelle Singletary in the Washington Post have recently described, my daughters were cleverly lured from the free report site, to the bureau's proprietary sites. Worse, due to inexperience, both young ladies signed up for monthly credit score reporting, thinking this was a requirement to obtain their "free" credit report. Both paid for the ongoing monthly charges with their VISA debit cards. Unfortunately, they clearly did not understand the difference between a free credit report, and credit scores, and of course, the bureaus made no effort to clarify this key distinction! I understand many have fallen into this trap. It took lots of time on the phone for my daughters to, 1) cancel the monthly credit score reporting service, and 2) attempt to get refunds of money already spent. Definitely, this "bait and switch" is a black eye on the bureaus, and your efforts to fix these loopholes is dead on. So, in my view, the AnnualCreditReport site should be, 1) commercial free until the free yearly credit report is printed, 2) bureau hyperlink free, 3) clear messages on every AnnualCreditReport page that state that fees are NOT required for the annual report, and that users should be very careful about paying for any services, like credit scores, before they determine whether these fee-for-service items are necessary. Finally, users should NOT feel any pressure to buy fee-based services as a criteria for obtaining the annual credit report. Neither one of my young adult daughters needed fee-based bureau services. It was certainly a hassle getting this cleared up. And now, unfortunately, they are both jaded about this free AnnualCreditReport site, thinking it was just a portal that led to them getting ripped off. In summary: The FTC should remove ALL advertising and marketing by the credit bureaus before, during and maybe even after the process of getting a free credit report. It's simply too easy for individuals to get lured into buying something they don't need. If it happened to my daughters, it will happen to others...again and again. Also, eliminate the clever, disguised pitches and hyperlinks for products that many may not want or need. The AnnualCreditReport site is for a FREE product, and is not a hook or platform to sell for-profit items. If the recent recession has taught us anything, it's the importance of clarity around financial products. The free Credit Report is no different. Eliminate the commercial gantlet on the free Credit Report site. Thank you!!!