Sept. 24 was the final day for members of the public to sign up for free credit monitoring.
Consumers were eligible for free TransUnion credit monitoring if they “had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor (including, for instance, automobile loans, bank credit cards, department store credit cards, other retail store credit cards, finance company loans, mortgage loans and student loans) located in the United States anytime from Jan. 1, 1987 to May 28, 2008,” according to a TransUnion press release.
To sign up, consumers needed to visit the website established for administering benefits.
Why so generous?
TransUnion didn’t simply offer free credit monitoring as an act of charity. Beginning in 1999, TransUnion was accused in 14 different lawsuits of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by disclosing more information about consumers than the law allows to marketers of insurance and credit products. While the law allows selling publicly available information, is does not permit the sale of private data.
The settlement addresses those charges. “As part of the settlement we’ll be providing consumers up to nine months of credit monitoring,” Colleen Ryan, TransUnion’s vice president of corporate and community affairs, told CreditCards.com when the settlement was originally announced back in May.
Not many people appeared to have signed up. While TransUnion did not respond to requests for information, Chris Micheletti, a lawyer with Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette, LLP and attorney for some of the plaintiffs, says that through the week prior to the deadline, just 540,000 people had opted in.
What you get
Under the terms of the settlement, consumers had a few options. The settlement outlines the choices:
“TransUnion shall provide six months of the TransUnion credit monitoring service (which consists of (i) free unlimited daily access to a Settlement Class Member’s TransUnion credit report and Credit Score; (ii) ‘credit monitoring,’ a 24-hour e-mail credit notification service (with certain other components customarily provided by TransUnion with sale of this product) having a retail value of $59.75, to all class members who request it.”
“Simultaneously with offering settlement class members the basic relief … TransUnion shall offer an alternative enhanced set of services that class members can select in exchange for a full release of claims. This enhanced set of services shall consist of nine months of TransUnion credit monitoring, a suite of insurance scores, and TransUnion’s mortgage simulator service, having an aggregate retail value of $115.50.”
To get the basic, six-month monitoring, consumers had to promise not to join another post-settlement class action lawsuit. For the nine-month enhanced free service, consumers had to give up all their rights to make further legal claims against TransUnion. In each case, the service will end, rather than automatically becoming a paid service, unless the consumer requests otherwise.
There’s a third option, as well: Consumers could sign up for a cash payment, which won’t be available for two years and will only be paid if money is left over following the payment of any other “post-settlement claims” taken from a $75 million fund established by TransUnion.
Most consumers appeared to want the money. According to Micheletti, 418,000 signed up for the possible cash payment, 310,000 selected the six months of monitoring and 95,000 chose nine months of monitoring, with some overlap between the six months of credit monitoring and the cash payment.