New option for
■ Phone fight
■ Design flaws
FOR YEARS, the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) profit—for both the theaters and the cell-phone
essentially was the only player in the lucrative credit- companies—and personal rights—the right to enjoy
score market. A good FICO score can make the dif- a movie in peace or the right to use your cell phone
ference in getting a favorable loan to buy a house, car at whim. But whose rights are right in the battle?
and many other items. We’ll have to wait and see.
About 75 percent of banks, mortgage brokers and
car dealers in this country use the FICO score to make Who designed this?
lending decisions. The company is so successful that A Dutch scientist found in a marketing study
major credit-reporting agencies have tried and failed that half of all “malfunc tioning”
to buy out the corporation on several occasions. products returned to stores by buy-
Now, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the ers work perfectly. The problem is
three largest credit-reporting agencies, have devel- that consumers just can’t figure out
oped their own version of the FICO score. They say how to use them. But researchers
their “Vantage Score” is simple to use and under- say it’s not the fault of a confused
stand. It is currently available only to commercial consumer. Instead, it could be
borrowers and lenders. poor design.
What will this mean to consumers? FICO is still The study showed the
the market leader with all its services, including sell- average consumer in the
ing personal credit scores directly to consumers. United States will strug-
A contact at Equifax told me that later this year gle for 20 minutes to
consumers will be able to purchase the joint getadevice working
“Vantage Score” system through Equifax, Experian before giving up and
or TransUnion. deciding to return it.
But Norma Garcia, senior attorney for Consum- Most of the flaws
ers Union, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, were found in the
says that using the new credit-score standardized firstphase of the
system might be confusing to users and could result design process. This
in different credit scores appearing at each one of might be true for
the three credit-reporting agencies. many electronic gad-
She adds there is also concern because recent gets, including MP3
surveys by public-interest groups show that credit players, home theaters
reports from the agencies involved in the new scor- and wireless audio sys-ing system show error rates in one in four cases. tems. However, the
Garcia says this could have a serious negative impact survey did not show
on future users of the new credit-scoring system how to alleviate
unless something is done to correct the problem. the problem. C
(Editor’s note: Costco offers a credit-reports-and-monitoring service available at costco.com, under
“Services” and “Credit Reports & Monitoring.”)
AM Y CAN TRELL
Silent movies David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
The National Association of Theatre Owners His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
(NATO) recently announced they wanted to lobby the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
the Federal Communications Commission to allow check the radio page at
the blocking of cell-phone signals in theaters. © 2006 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
LAST SUMMER I bought
a vehicle for more than
$15,000, assuming it
had four-wheel drive.
The contract didn’t
specify the drive, but
the extended warranty
it as “Four Wheel Drive.”
Recently, I got stuck in
the snow and then discovered it was only a
two-wheel drive! I confronted the dealer, who
said the warranty document was meaningless,
and they won’t take
the car back.
JAMES, your dealer
should have disclosed
that all models in
that class aren’t
drives, but it
seems that with-
out having done
to ask. Some-
tation should have
specified the drive,
but you say it didn’t.
However, the warranty
did. I suggest you con-
tact the Washington
Department of Licens-
ing regarding regulation
of auto dealers for your
state. I also suggest you
contact an attorney.
At the very least, you
should recoup the cost
of the warranty, due to
The reason given by the organization was that
theater owners must find a way to block rude behavior as the industry tries to come up with ways to coax Do you have a question for David?
people back to neighborhood movie houses. Almost Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond to
immediately, the Cellular Telecommunications and your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco members
Internet Association told me it would fight any move receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest interest to
to block cell-phone signals. Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the contributor