TransUnion offers free credit reports in wake of data suit

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As part of the preliminary settlement of a class-action lawsuit, credit data agency TransUnion is offering free credit monitoring to anyone who had a credit card, loan or credit account between January 1987 and May 28, 2008.

The suit alleges that TransUnion sliced and diced consumer credit information and sold it in the form of marketing lists. TransUnion, which discontinued the accused arm, Performance Data, in 2001, has denied any wrongdoing. The company agreed to the settlement to avoid a protracted litigation process.

“We feel that this is the right thing to do, and it offers consumers the opportunity to monitor their credit and look at their scores,” said Clif O'Neal, a spokesperson for TransUnion. “We feel this is an educational offering. We realize that the privacy issue is more heightened in today's environment, so we feel these services are a benefit.”

In a bid to generate some positive publicity, TransUnion is advertising the offer in a nationwide campaign that starts in mid-June.

Consumers have two options in filing for the settlement: basic relief and enhanced relief. Basic relief provides free credit monitoring for six months, which includes daily credit report and credit score access. The service is worth $59.75, and consumers may also receive a cash payment if the $75 million settlement fund lasts. Enhanced relief offers nine months of credit monitoring, insurance scores and a mortgage simulator service —valued at $115.50.

To participate, consumers must register at www.listclassaction.com.

The nation's other major credit unions, Equifax and Experian, were tight-lipped on whether the settlement may affect their businesses or consumer marketing strategies. Equifax refused to comment.

Donald Girard, VP public affairs for Experian Americas, noted, “Experian's policy is to refrain from comment on legal matters involving other companies.”

He added, however, "Today's consumers understand more than ever the need to frequently interact with their credit reports to make certain they have a good understanding of the data contained in their file. As the data contained in their credit files changes often, consumers will always need to periodically check the file to keep themselves current on the status of the entries and to ensure that they will be able to achieve their credit objectives now and in the future."

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