The problem with annualcreditreport.com—other than its name—is that getting your reports from the site is a little like dealing with GoDaddy: you have to deal with upsells and side-sells at every step. You can indeed get your free credit reports from the site, but you'll also have to keep turning down other offers from the three participating bureaus. Hell, there are even ads (sorry, "sponsor" links) on the home page, the one place where you'd hope for the least consumer confusion.
Michelle Singletary at the Washington Post notes that the FTC is attempting to correct this oversight. They're also asking the general public for input on what would make the service less confusing to use.
In an effort to help keep people from ending up on impostor sites or falling for promotions for free credit reports that aren't really free, the FTC is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the free-report rule. The credit card legislation passed this spring requires the agency to create amendments to the law by Feb. 22, 2010, to prevent deceptive marketing of these reports.
Over the next two months, you'll have a chance to weigh in on the FTC's rulemaking effort. Do take the time to comment, especially if you feel you've been deceived. This isn't a trivial matter. These rules will dictate how you get your credit reports. Most of what the FTC is proposing will make things better, but the agency needs to be tougher.
"We are encouraging consumers and anybody else to comment," said Katherine Armstrong, an FTC lawyer. "We want to know if we got it right."
Here are three rule changes they're proposing:
1. All credit bureau advertising and upsells would be removed from the process until after you have received your free credit report(s).
2. The "sponsored" links from the credit bureaus would be removed.
3. Other companies (like our much-hated "freecreditreport.com") would have to send customers to a landing page that reads, "This is not the free credit report provided for by federal law."
What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, or have other suggestions, you should send them in to the FTC:
To read the text of the Federal Register notice with all the proposed changes, go to http://www.ftc.gov. Comments must be received by Nov. 30.
To submit your comments electronically, go to http://public.commentworks.com/ftc/FreeCreditReportNPRM. Comments on paper should be mailed or delivered to Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex T), 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.
"Underlining 'Free' in 'Free Credit Report'" [Washington Post]