Consumers will soon have one fewer place to pay for what they can get for free.
The last time that Experian plc (EXPN) and Mighty Net Inc. were in the same press release, it was because the latter had settled a copyright infringement case brought by the former. The next one will be about how Experian has agreed to buy Mighty Net, the Agoura Hills, Calif.-based operator of CreditReport.com and related sites.
News of the deal was first disclosed in an FTC filing, and confirmed earlier this afternoon by Mighty Net chairman Sheldon Kasower.
At first glance, I wondered if Experian was effectively destroying Mighty Net via acquisition. After all, CreditReport.com promises users the chance to monitor their credit reports from three different bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Now, under Experian’s ownership, could CreditReport.com continue to maintain that information from all three bureaus is equally valuable? Would the other bureaus continue to provide their data via a competitor? Would consumers still trust the provider?
What I didn’t initially realize, however, was that Experian already operates FreeCreditReport.com — yes, it of the singing pirate waiters. Both CreditReport.com and FreeCreditReport.com offer consumers virtually the same product: A “free” trial that quickly snowballs into a full-blown monthly subscription service.
Such efforts have come under scrutiny by consumer advocates, and even were addressed in last year’s credit card reform bill. That legislation forced companies like Experian and Mighty Net to explicitly note that their services were different than the free credit report that consumers are legally entitled to each year from each credit bureau (via this site). The bill still did not allow everyone to access their actual credit score, although did provide for scores in situations where the score results in an adverse event (being rejected for a job, etc).
Kasower declined to discuss the deal, directing all inquiries to Ireland-based Experian. I’ve left a message with their U.S. press rep, and will update this post if/when they reply.
UPDATE: An Experian spokesperson has sent over the following: