Why, exactly, should consumers pay the credit bureaus for credit freezes or monitoring services when it was one of them who lost our personal data? In the aftermath of the Equifax data breach, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Brian Schatz of Hawaii have introduced a bill that would ban credit reporting agencies from collecting fees for placing freezes on individuals’ credit files.
In the grand tradition of government backronyms, the bill [PDF] is called the FREE Act, or Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act. (Yes, that would actually be the FFEE Act. Maybe you’re supposed to squint a little.)
What the bill would do is simple. Fees for credit freezes already vary by state, and some states (Colorado, for example) don’t allow bureaus to charge consumers to place a freeze on their credit records to prevent identity theft.
The bill, if passed, would stop credit bureaus from charging consumers any money for credit freezes at all.
“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,” Sen. Warren said in a statement about the bill. “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.”
In addition to this new legislation, Warren also introduced a bill that would prevent prospective employers from looking up the credit records of most job applicants. Credit records don’t actually show who is likely to be a good employee, and help keep people out of better jobs after they’ve had financial struggles.