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New rules for all advertisers including web sites and television

By: Chuck Burnett
Published February 23, 2010

Pursuant to requirements mandated in the Credit CARD Act of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission has issued new rules regarding the advertising of free credit reports to consumers.  The new rules generally take effect April 1, 2010 (September 1, 2010 for radio and television ads.)

The gist of the new rules is to make it clear to consumers who are exposed to numerous offers of free credit reports, that the only source authorized by Federal law for consumers to get their free annual credit report is the website. 

The AnnualCreditReport site was created by the national credit reporting agencies in 2004 as required in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, to create a central source where consumers could obtain their credit reports each year from each or all of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Consumers can apply for their free credit report online, by phone (877-322-8228), or request their annual file disclosure in writing from the AnnualCreditReport site:

The new advertising rule applies whether the free credit report advertisement is shown on an internet site, in a print ad, in email, on the radio, in a television commercial, or in a telemarketing session. In most cases, the advertisement must include a prominent display to the effect that as consumers “You have the right to a free credit report from or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under Federal law.” In the case of radio and television, the ad must include prominent disclosures in the audio and visual parts of the advertisement that “This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law.”

The whole point of the new advertising rule is to reduce the potential for consumers to be confused when faced with the multitude of free offers for their credit reports.

Additionally the new rule will require the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies to delay the advertisement for other products and services on the AnnualCreditReport site, such as credit scores or credit monitoring, until after the consumer has procured their free credit reports.

Consumers are advised to get copies of their credit reports yearly to enable them to detect and dispute inaccurate information that may be included in their credit files.

The new advertising rule does not seem to apply to advertisements for free credit scores, so perhaps look to see more advertising of this nature in the future.