Experian has been fined $650,000 by the Federal Trade Commission for spamming customers with product and marketing messages that they did not sign up for.
In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, the agency says that California-based Experian Consumer Services (ECS), also known as ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., spammed consumers with marketing offers after they signed up for an account with the company in order to manage their credit report information. In the emails, the company failed to provide a way for recepients to opt out, in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act, according to the complaint.
“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,” says Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “You always have the right to unsubscribe from marketing messages, and the FTC takes enforcing that right seriously.”
Consumers who wish to freeze or take other steps to manage their Experian credit information online must create an account with ECS. The complaint charges that consumers were then sent emails promoting Experian’s products and services such as one touting Experian Boost, which promotes ways for consumers to boost their credit scores, and another that offers a free 'Dark Web' scan. But the emails did not contain an unsubscribe link consumers could use to keep from receiving even more marketing emails.
Experian includes a notice at the bottom of these emails informing recipients that they are receiving the messages because they “contain important information about your account.” Contrary to Experian’s claims, however, the complaint charges that the emails are not related to consumers’ accounts and instead market or promote products and services.
In addition to the $650,000 penalty, the proposed order prohibits ECS from sending marketing emails that fail to offer a mechanism to opt out of such messages. The order must be approved by a federal court before it can go into effect.