As of April 2, a new FTC regulation requires websites offering “free credit report” services to display the following message:
(Note: before this morning, I didn’t even realize there was a government-approved site for obtaining free copies of my credit report. Nor, quite frankly, did-or-do I care.)
In addition, the websites must have a clickable button link which reads “take me to the authorized source” and links to both the FTC website and the authorized AnnualCreditReport website.
Apparently the mandatory “We’ve been PWNED by the FTC” banner didn’t make it out of committee. (At least not in its literal form.)
The regulation exists to help consumers separate truly free credit reports (we’re entitled to one every year, free of charge, from the official source) from those offered by companies that offer “free” reports but then charge customers for other services (most commonly credit monitoring – something we each can-and-should do on our own). In the grand scheme of things, I actually think it’s a good idea. If you’ve read here for more than a month, you know my position on individual responsibility – as well as big government and the nanny state. That said, I have a healthy loathing for businesses that take advantage of the unwary and the uneducated. Free means free – or should – and using the lure of a free credit check (not to mention the threat of identity theft and other serious dangers) to obtain the personal information of an unsuspecting individual who thinks you’re just trying to help them, only to turn around and use that information to sell them products – or even just harass them with advertising – means you rank somewhere between toe fungus and the stuff that gathers in the bottom of the garbage disposal. (On a good day. When I’m feeling generous.)
We won’t even start on the annoying nature of some of their TV ads – though they have earned the distinction of being the only advertisers to have earned their own Family Rule. (Yak Household Rule #87: If a free credit ad comes on the TV, the person with the remote must immediately mute sound. Failure to successfully mute said advertiser within 1.5 seconds results in loss of remote privileges for the remainder of the evening or until the next Custodian of the Remote fails to comply with Rule 87.)
Speaking of which: it appears the FTC is also imposing a variation of this mandatory wording on television and radio ads (effective September 1). This I can’t wait to see. Here’s hoping they require audio as well as visual. Either way, it warms the cockles of my shaggy heart to think of the trouble this will cause for at least one company’s ad men. It’s not exactly what they deserve for creating one of the worst advertising earworms known to man, but it’s a start and I’ll take it. After all, it’s probably not strictly Constitutional to drag them through the streets behind a herd of incontinent buffalo, no matter how much I’d like to see it.
Still, it’s nice to see Big Gov’mint do something right for a change.
* For those still unclear on the concept: All your base are belong to us.
(Tip of the horns, Creditbloggers.)