Warren introduces credit data-freeze bill following Equifax breach

The proposed legislation would prohibit credit reporting agencies from charging a fee when consumers request a freeze on their credit files

Warren introduces credit data-freeze bill following Equifax breach
A new bill introduced in the Senate is seeking to give back to consumers control over their credit and personal information from credit reporting agencies.

The Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act, introduced by US Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), follows the announcement by Equifax of a “cybersecurity incident” that could impact as many as 143 million US consumers.

Under the federal requirement proposed in the bill, credit reporting agencies could not charge fees when a consumer asked the agency to temporarily or permanently freeze access to that consumer’s credit files. Currently, credit reporting agencies often charge a fee when a consumer wants to limit how the agencies can use his personal financial information, even though the agencies never had permission to collect that information in the first place.

Additionally, the proposed FREE Act would prevent agencies from profiting off of the financial data during a freeze, improve fraud alert protections, and create an opportunity for consumers to obtain an additional free credit report following the Equifax breach. The bill would also require credit reporting agencies to refund credit freeze charges following the data breach.

"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," Warren said. "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."

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