Credit reporting agency Experian must pay a $650,000 fine for violating spam laws. The US Department of Justice and the FTC have announced a permanent injunction granted by the US District Court in Central California, prohibiting the company’s deceptive email marketing practices. regulators complaint last week alleged that Experian had sent customers with free credit monitoring memberships deceptive marketing emails that lacked “clear and conspicuous notice” of the ability to opt out and “a mechanism to do so.”
The FTC says this violates the Unsolicited Marketing and Assault Pornography Control Act (CAN-SPAM Act). The FTC referred the case to the DOJ to file the injunction before the court granted it, ordering Experian to pay the nearly three-quarters of a million dollar fine within seven days.
If you’ve been unlucky enough to receive spam from Experian, you may already be familiar with the format. A new car has been detected on your account. Confirm it! You need dark web monitoring to protect yourself! And of course, that old classic: increase your FICO score. And of course, when you log into your account, you’re taken to a page asking you to update your account or sign up for a loan, although that doesn’t seem to be within the scope of this case.
Text at the bottom of emails. shown in court documents says, “This is not a marketing email” and claims the messages were notifications of recent account changes. No explicit opt-out link visible: just a link to the company’s website and a statement that customers “can update some alerts and communication preferences” but will still “get notifications like this” about account status.
“Signing up for a membership does not mean you’re signing up for spam,” said Director Samuel Levine of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. At the time“especially when all you’re trying to do is freeze your credit to protect your identity.”
The court order says that Experian is permanently prohibited from sending “transactional or relationship” messages if they fall under the FTC Definition of Commercial Advertising. In addition to ordering the company to ensure that there is an explicit opt-out option in its marketing emails, the court also issued several compliance requirements to ensure that the company actually complies with the court order.