FTC Orders Credit Bureau to Stop Selling Lists

FRAMINGHAM (03/02/2000) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ordered Trans Union LLC to stop selling information from its consumer credit reports to third-party marketers.

In a statement issued yesterday, the FTC said it told Trans Union to stop selling the target marketing lists through its subsidiary, Performance Data, to outside marketers "who lack an authorized purpose for receiving them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act."

Chicago-based Trans Union is one of three nationwide credit bureaus and holds data on roughly 160 million consumers.

In a statement issued yesterday, Trans Union vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Trans Union argues that the portion of the Fair Credit Reporting Act barring the sale of consumer data violates the First Amendment. The company says it doesn't sell confidential credit information in its lists, only "names, addresses and types of credit held by consumers." Consumers also can opt out of having their names on those target-market lists.

However, the FTC maintains that target marketing isn't a permissible use of credit bureau data under federal law, which was designed to protect the privacy of such data.

The unanimous ruling by the FTC involves a complaint first filed in 1992 against Trans Union for allegedly violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The company has 14 days to file a petition for reconsideration.

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