September 15, 2017

Warren, Schatz Introduce Legislation to Give Control of Credit Information Back to Consumers, Protect Personal Data Following Equifax Hack

Fact Sheet (PDF)
Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) today introduced the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act to give control over credit and personal information back to consumers. The Equifax hack announced last week, which compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans, highlighted just how little control consumers have over the collection, use, and sale of their own credit data.
"Credit reporting agencies like Equifax make billions of dollars collecting and selling personal data about consumers without their consent, and then make consumers pay if they want to stop the sharing of their own data," said Senator Warren. "Our bill gives consumers more control over their own personal data and prohibits companies like Equifax from charging consumers for freezing and unfreezing access to their credit files. Passing this bill is a first step toward reforming the broken credit reporting industry."

"This is about making sure companies like Equifax do right by the consumer, by restoring trust, security, and privacy to millions of Americans," Senator Schatz said. "You would think that, when it comes to cybersecurity, companies would put people over profit, but as we've seen with Equifax, that is not always the case. Congress must act to protect consumer privacy, along with people's ability to get a loan, to buy a car, or even get a new job. There's a lot at stake here."

Credit reporting agencies like Equifax collect personal financial data on millions of Americans and rake in billions of dollars in annual revenue selling this information to others.  If consumers wish to limit how credit reporting agencies use this information - such as by placing a credit freeze on their credit file - they often have to pay a fee to the agency, even though consumers never gave the agency permission to collect their data in the first place.  The Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act helps address this problem by creating a federal requirement for credit reporting agencies to freeze (as well as temporarily or permanently unfreeze) access to credit files at a consumer's request and at no cost.

The Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act would also prevent credit reporting agencies from profiting off of consumers' information during a freeze, enhance fraud alert protections, and provide the opportunity for consumers to receive an additional free credit report following the Equifax data breach.  Finally, the bill would force Equifax and the other credit reporting agencies to refund any fees they charged for credit freezes in the wake of the Equifax data breach.

Original co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

The legislation has received endorsements from the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), U.S. PIRG, MASSPIRG, Tennessee Citizen Action, Consumer Action, Americans for Financial Reform, CREDO, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and the Consumer Federation of America.

View a fact sheet about the legislation here. View the bill text here