In April of 2009 the Federal Trade Commission started a program that was designed to help consumers take more control of their credit. Provisions that were instated in this program established new credit report requirements, laws, and guidelines for many things affecting credit consumers in America. For instance, it made it more obvious which “free” credit reports were truly free, namely by supplying every credit-carrying person in the country with one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus. This means that once a year, you are allowed to view the information that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have regarding your financial well-being.
While many websites have been developed which advertise free access to these services, not all of them are entirely accurate. Some charged hidden fees, or attached the free service to an affiliate program which you were required to pay for in order to gain access to the information. At the same time, many were very forth coming with their options, stating that the free credit report was more like a bonus incentive. The new credit report requirements set out to help everyday consumers better distinguish which offers were malicious and which were legitimate. Thanks to provisions like this, every person in America can take advantage of free credit reports without the concern for these often misleading advertisements, granted they do so through the proper channels.
The new credit report requirements offer full disclosure to you, as a consumer, on offers pertaining to your gaining access to your free credit report. For instance, every web site and print ad that wishes to discuss these terms or offer a product must include very specific information regarding your rights as a consumer. Any commercial website must specifically a section that is required by law to be prominently displayed where the user can see it. This disclaimer should read: “THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV. You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under Federal Law.” Of course, within this small spread are hyperlinks that can take you directly to the pages on the FTC website where this information is discussed more at length. Each website must also supply an “authorized” button that opens windows for these respective sites if you click on it. Similar looking print ads have the same requirements, sans the hyperlinks, of course.
These disclosure statements must also be featured in a way that is easy to see and read. They must be developed in a very distinctive style that contains a higher degree of contrast in accordance to the background color or patterns, so as to be more discernable than perhaps other information on the page.
Also, the new credit report regulations forbid the marketing of any other special offers on the official website until you have already submitted your information for your free credit reports from all three bureaus. Previous iterations of this site provided you with links to each of these credit agencies that, when clicked, would take you to a commercial site, where you would be required, or at least requested, to pay in order to see your reports. Not only is this misleading, but it is unfair since any unsuspecting visitor to the site would assume that these links were indeed accurate and in no way even remotely malicious. Obviously, this sort of thing is no longer allowed.
New credit report regulations have also been established regarding television and radio ads. Now, these advertisements must feature an auditory disclaimer or on-screen disclaimer that describes where you can get free credit reports as determined by Federal Law. This is indeed quite different from previous television commercials, in particular, that might never mention what the exact service being advertised cost or how the affiliated program related. They might use catchy tunes or attractive smiles to lure you into logging in without truly knowing why you might be visiting the site in the first place. This is not necessarily illegal, and it is certainly not a new practice, but it definitely does not provide a positive consumer experience after all is said and done.
These rules that address new credit report regulations redefine the way that these companies do business, especially online. This is a very good thing since you should not have to pay extra money to know your own credit score. The new laws make sure that this remains the most important thing.
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