The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an order against Dun & Bradstreet, a provider of business credit report services, for deceiving businesses about the value of products they offered and for failing to correct errors on businesses’ credit reports.
In a complaint first announced in January 2022, the Commission alleged that many businesses have complained of errors in these reports that have cost them time, expense, and opportunities. The Commission alleged that Dun & Bradstreet failed to give these businesses a clear, consistent, and reliable process to get these errors fixed. Moreover, Dun & Bradstreet profited from businesses’ pain by selling them a line of products that purported to help them improve their reports. In fact, for many businesses, these benefits proved illusory, while the costs were all too real.
Dun & Bradstreet credit reports, ratings, and scores, the complaint notes, are often key factors in whether and on what terms businesses will extend credit or award contracts to other businesses. This means that the contents of Dun & Bradstreet reports can be vitally important to many small and mid-sized businesses.
The Commission is ordering Dun & Bradstreet to make substantial changes to its processes that will significantly benefit small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as provide refunds to businesses harmed by the company’s deceptive practices in selling its CreditBuilder products.
Among the notable changes that will help ensure that Dun & Bradstreet responds promptly and fully to businesses’ complaints about incorrect information in their reports:
- When a business informs Dun & Bradstreet of incorrect information in its report, Dun & Bradstreet will be required to either delete the disputed information or perform a reinvestigation of the information to confirm its accuracy. If the reinvestigation finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, or if it cannot verify payment experience information, Dun & Bradstreet must delete the information and must also ensure that it is not readded to the report at a later date.
- Dun & Bradstreet has to comply with specific periods of time within which to promptly investigate and correct errors. The time allowed depends on the complexity of the investigation.
- Dun & Bradstreet will be required to inform businesses of the results of their investigations and provide businesses with free access to the information as revised.
The order also requires that Dun & Bradstreet must make clear disclosures to companies to which it is selling its CreditBuilder products about the rate at which the firm accepts subscribers’ requests to add payment history information. Dun & Bradstreet will also have to make up-front disclosures about ways that it limits its role in helping subscribers add such information. These provisions will help prospective customers make informed choices when deciding whether to subscribe to the firm’s CreditBuilder products.
The Commission order also requires Dun & Bradstreet to provide refunds to many businesses that first purchased CreditBuilder products between April, 2015 and May, 2020, as well as opportunities for many current customers to cancel their services and obtain refunds if they so choose.
In addition, the Commission order places restrictions on Dun & Bradstreet’s ability to automatically renew CreditBuilder subscriptions, requiring disclosures and prohibiting the firm from using automatic renewal to switch a subscriber into a more expensive product that the subscriber did not order.
After receiving three comments, the Commission voted 4-0 to approve the complaint and settlement order and send responses to the commenters.