In light of the recent Equifax breach, that gave away millions of people’s personal information, a handful of senators have reintroduced legislation that would put more power in the hands of consumers. Specifically in relation to their credit reports. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) have reintroduced the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act. Some of the things proposed in the legislation include applying standards to credit reporting agencies, requiring them to do some simple, obvious things like match consumers’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers.
The act also calls for better flow of information used by lenders as well as sharing credit report disputes and resolutions. This would allow consumers to both understand their credit reports better and more easily fix errors when they arise. Additional the SECURE Act requires parents to be allowed to freeze their child’s credit report to prevent identity theft that could go unnoticed for years. Under the legislation, credit reporting agencies would also have to join a national registry. The Government Accountability Office would be asked to look into the possibility of creating a national credit reporting system. Lastly, consumers who sue credit reporting agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act would be given injunctive relief under SECURE and agencies found to be in violation would be held accountable to the FTC.
Senator Schatz sent a letter to the CEO of Equifax, Richard Smith, demanding that the company do much more in it’s post-breach response including reimbursements for security freezes, unlimited free credit monitoring services and an audit of its security measures. Which sounds decent, don’t you think? I mean, they’re literally doing nothing at this point. And when they offer to do something, it comes at a cost. Which, in this case is that you can’t file a lawsuit against them. So you’re kind of left in limbo. Equifax provided some information around how much you would have to pay for the security freeze, but Senator Schatz is onto something. Why not make Equifax pay for their muck up? Why also require the consumers to spend money on something that they didn’t want in the first place?
In a statement, Schatz said the following: “This is one of several important steps Congress can take in the wake of the Equifax cybersecurity breach. Because these credit agencies operate in the dark, they are allowed to be terribly unfair and unaccountable. Millions of Americans have bad credit because of mistakes from credit agencies, and it can ruin lives, stopping people from getting a job or owning a home or car.” I like the fact that he has identified this as ONE of several important steps. Indicating that this won’t fix the system, but it will definitely help in this particular case. He also notes that people are going to be unfairly disadvantaged because of Equifax’s mistake. Which I like to see, because he’s calling them out for this terrible issue. Instead of putting this on the consumers, Equifax needs to take responsibility. And I’m glad to see some legislative action as well.