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Experian sued over FreeCreditReport.com

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A Wisconsin college student filed a class-action complaint against Experian this week, claiming that the company's ubiquitous ads for FreeCreditReport.com led her to believe she could use the site to get a no-cost credit report.

There's nothing free about FreeCreditReport.com's credit-monitoring service, which carries a $14.95-per-month charge. Erica Possin went to the site to check her credit before buying a new car. She says she entered her credit card information and received her report, but she didn't realize she would be automatically enrolled in the monitoring service.

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Months later, Possin saw the charges on her credit card. She cancelled the service, but couldn't get a refund on the monthly fees she had already been billed. Possin contacted the law firm Brown and Charbonneau, and is now the lead plaintiff in a suit filed in a district court in California, where Experian's headquarters are located.

The suit says it aims to "stop the fraud and seek compensation for the tens of thousands of consumers deceived by Experian's FreeCreditReport.com to the tune of millions of fraudulently obtained profits."

Experian did not respond to a request for comment.

The company has a long record of fielding criticism over its pricing practices. The Better Business Bureau has received more than 11,000 complaints about FreeCreditReport.com.

Experian has twice settled with the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive-advertising charges related to another of its credit-monitoring sites, Consumerinfo.com. The company paid the FTC more than $1 million in fines.

Possin's suit takes issue with FreeCreditReport.com's pervasive TV spots, in which a shaggy-haired young man sings with a backup band about his poor credit. The jingles include lines like "F-R-E-E / That spells 'free' / Credit report dot com, baby."

"FCR.com's television, radio, and Internet advertisements misrepresent the costs of the service it provides to consumers," Possin's lawyer, John Balestriere, said in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com. "The only price mentioned anywhere is 'free,' [and] this representation is not true."

The only authorized site from which to get a truly free report is AnnualCreditReport.com, which is run by the FTC. Most people are legally entitled to a no-cost report once a year from each of the credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  To top of page

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