Group of AGs send letter to FTC

Nick Rees Dec. 14, 2009, 4:22pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been joined by 42 state attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to toughen restrictions against companies advertising free credit reports.

"The catchy commercials we've all seen about obtaining a 'free' credit report are misleading," Madigan said.

"Consumers obtaining reports from those services often incur unexpected costs in order to simply access information that is available free of charge. I strongly urge the FTC to implement stricter regulations that require credit reporting services to clearly and conspicuously disclose any costs associated with obtaining a report."

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - provide every 12 months, upon request, a free copy of a consumer's credit report.

Madigan said that her office's Identity Theft Hotline staff, however, regularly fields questions from consumers confused about charges incurred when they attempt to obtain their free credit report through other websites, including the popularly advertised, which is sponsored by Experian.

The so-called "free" credit report websites, which do not simply provide consumers access to their free annual credit report, automatically charge consumers for services, including credit monitoring, and give the consumer a specific amount of time, including as little as seven days, to cancel their automatic enrollment before incurring any charges, the attorneys general say.

Madigan's comments to the FTC urges the agency to require that credit reporting services advertising their own credit report offerings include specific disclosure language in their television, radio and print ads to notify consumers of potential charges. Madigan's comments also ask that the FTC require the services to direct consumers in a clear manner to the Annual Credit Report Request Service's official free report.

The attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia joined in supporting Madigan's request to the FTC for rule changes.

More News