Experian Violated Can-Spam Law, FTC Charges

Experian Consumer Services, which enables consumers who enroll in a free service to freeze or unfreeze their credit reports, violated the federal anti-spam law by sending unsolicited email ads, the Federal Trade Commission alleged Monday.

“Signing up for a membership doesn’t mean you’re signing up for unwanted email, especially when all you’re trying to do is freeze your credit to protect your identity,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated Monday.

Experian Consumer Services -- a unit of Experian -- has agreed to settle the charges by paying $650,000 and refraining from violating the federal Can-Spam law in the future.

Some of the email ads allegedly promoted Experian offerings, including a $20 monthly identity-theft protection service, according to the complaint, which was filed by the Justice Department in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Other emails promoted a service that supposedly offered consumers a way to improve their credit scores.

The messages ran afoul of the federal Can-Spam Act because they didn't inform consumers that they could opt out of receiving future ads, and didn't have an opt-out link, the government charged.

The emails also told consumers they would “continue to receive notifications” even if they updated their communication preferences on their profiles.

“In effect, the defendant conveyed to consumers that even if they wanted to opt out, tough luck,” the FTC wrote Monday in a blog post.

The messages said they were not “marketing” emails, but the FTC said the purpose of the emails was to sell something -- such as products that promised to raise credit scores.

“The emails featured bright colors, eye-catching graphics, and promises of 'insurance savings' and a 'fabulous, newly boosted FICO score,'” the FTC wrote Monday in a blog post.

An Experian spokesperson said the company disagrees with the FTC's allegations, but added that the settlement agreement "allows us to move forward."

The spokesperson added that the company now includes a link to an "email preferences center" at the bottom of all marketing emails. 

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