The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Experian Consumer Services (ECS), a subsidiary of Experian offering credit information to consumers, will pay $650,000 to settle charges regarding the sending of unsolicited marketing emails without offering an opt-out mechanism. The settlement involves allegations that the California-based company violated the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act.
In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the FTC, ECS, also under the name ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., was accused of spamming consumers with marketing emails after they created an account to manage their Experian credit report information. According to the complaint, the emails failed to provide a clear notice and method for consumers to opt out of receiving additional marketing messages, thereby violating the CAN-SPAM Act.
Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated, “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. You always have the right to unsubscribe from marketing messages, and the FTC takes enforcing that right seriously.”
The complaint charges that consumers who registered for a free membership with ECS received promotional emails for Experian’s products and services, such as Experian Boost and a free “Dark Web” scan. Notably, these emails did not contain an unsubscribe link that would allow recipients to avoid further marketing emails.
Additionally, Experian included a notice in these emails, informing recipients that they were receiving the messages because they “contain important information about your account.” The complaint, however, asserts that these emails were not related to consumers’ accounts but were marketing Experian’s products and services. Thus, the emails should have allowed consumers to unsubscribe from future messages.
Alongside the monetary penalty of $650,000, the proposed legal order also prohibits ECS from sending marketing emails without allowing recipients to opt-out. This order must receive approval from a federal court before becoming enforceable.
The Commission voted unanimously (3-0) to refer the complaint and the stipulated final order to the DOJ for filing. The complaint and proposed order were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
This case underlines the importance of the CAN-SPAM Act and its role in protecting consumers from unsolicited marketing communications. Companies are urged to adhere to legal requirements in their email marketing practices to ensure compliance and protect consumers’ rights to manage their communications preferences.