I have to shut off the TV the second one of the damn FreeCreditReport.com commercials start playing. If I don’t, I fear I’ll go into a fit of rage and smash every guitar within a 50 mile radius. I really hate their commercials.
I also hate their blatantly misleading advertising. We should all be well aware that there is nothing free about FreeCreditReport.com by now and it’s about time the feds started cracking down on this company.
The Class Action Suit Against FreeCreditReport.com
On March 22, 2011 David Waring, a consumer who lives in San Diego, filed a class action lawsuit against Consumerinfo.com, essentially Experian, because of the actions of FreeCreditReport.com and FreeCreditScore.com. As with all class action lawsuits there is a large number of potential class members. Could YOU be a member of the class? Read on to find out.
The plaintiff alleges that he and other consumers who signed up for services via the aforementioned sites were deceived because the credit score provided by Consumerinfo is not the actual score sold to lenders, yet their advertising suggests that it is used by lenders to assess creditworthiness. The score on their websites is the “PLUS” score, which isn’t even commercially available to lenders so it can’t be used to determine your creditworthiness. Experian discloses as much, “Calculated on the PLUS Score model, your Experian Credit Score indicates your relative credit risk level for educational purposes and is not the score used by lenders.”
The problem is that on another one of their sites they state that your “Free Credit Score Matters” and “Your credit scores determine the amount credit lenders will make available to you and the interest rates and payments on mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, insurance policies, and more.” This, of course, isn’t true because none of the aforementioned lenders use your “Free Credit Score” for anything. Further, there is no disclosure in their ubiquitous television ads about how the score you get for free is not used by lenders.
The core service offered by the Consumerinfo sites (and there are a lot more than just the two mentioned in the lawsuit) is actually a credit monitoring service that includes a free score as the “loss leader” to get consumers to sign up. Despite the use of the word “free” in the URL the services aren’t actually free. There is a trial period of seven days and if you don’t cancel your trial credit monitoring service during that time frame your credit card, which you gave them when you signed up, is charged $14.95 each month until you do cancel. At best I’d call this “conditionally free.”
Who’s in the class
The lawsuit class “period” covers the time frame from March 22, 2007 to present. This means everyone who purchased services from FreeCreditReport.com, FreeCreditScore.com or Consumerinfo.com during that four-year period could be a member of the class. Clearly this means the class size could number in the millions.
I’ve been involved in several class action lawsuits as an expert witness. These types of cases can take years to resolve. As such, we should not expect news any time soon and we certainly should not expect a quick resolution. But, I’ll be watching the process closely and will provide you updates as often as possible, given that many of you are probably members of the class.
To sum things up…
- Your “free” credit score comes with a $15/month credit monitoring service that is near impossible to cancel.
- The credit score they give you is some arbitrary number that actually means nothing to credit lenders.
- If you ordered a credit report from freecreditreport.com anytime after March 2007, you may be eligible to enter in the class action lawsuit.
- Their commercials are still some of the most annoying on TV.
Really the most shocking thing here is the fact that the number they give you means nothing to lenders. You’re paying for a “free” number that has absolutely no meaning. You’d get just as much value if you sent me $10 and I gave you The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything.
Finally, if you really do want to gain access to your credit report for free, you can go to https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com/. Despite the unprofessional name and lack of a .gov extension, it is the only website run by and approved by the government to give you access to your credit report. I believe you can access your credit report once per year per credit agency.
Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, I desperately hope to see an end to their commercials.