ATLANTA -- Equifax Inc., the credit reporting agency, has decided it no longer will sell lists of names from its credit report files to direct-mail advertisers.
But companies that do direct-mail advertising can still get names from many other sources -- including Equifax's competitors -- so consumers are unlikely to notice much of a difference in their mailboxes.
One competitor, TRW Inc., said it planned to continue selling names from its credit report list to advertisers.
The lists were sold by Equifax's Direct Marketing Services unit, which employed 60 people. Most will be offered other jobs at Equifax. But as many as 20 people in Atlanta could lose their jobs, a spokeswoman said.
The decision to stop selling the lists of names, announced Thursday, was made for business and public-relations reasons.
Equifax, which had sales of more than $1 billion in 1990, said the lists brought in $11.5 million last year -- about 1 percent of total revenue. Equifax is also eager to calm consumers' fears about how the lists are used.
Congress is considering changes in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which affects credit reporting agencies. And New York state Attorney General Robert Abrams has said his office had pushed Equifax to stop selling the lists.
Equifax said the 120 million names on its lists could now only be obtained by companies offering customers pre-approved credit cards or credit lines. Only companies that use Equifax as a credit agency will be able to buy this service.
John Baker, senior vice president of Equifax, said that despite low sales from the list, the company would not have abandoned the business if it had not 'had concerns about the privacy of consumers.'
But Equifax also believes one of its new products, known as Buyer's Market, has more potential since it is based on the notion that consumers will actually pay to receive junk mail they like.
For $10 a year, consumers can choose categories of advertising they want and reject categories they do not want, picking from 53 categories that range from women's clothing to gardening.
Keith Wardell, an Equifax senior vice president, said he expects sales from Buyer's Market to pass the $11.5 million brought in by the credit report list in two or three years.