Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and a dozen other Democrats introduced a bill on Friday that seeks to end a major frustration for consumers who've sought to protect themselves from the Equifax data breach.
The legislation, named the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act, would force credit reporting bureaus such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to allow consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit for free — banning the agencies from charging consumers for the service.
Depending on where a consumer lives, those fees range from $5 to $10 per request per agency. Ending the fees could save millions of Americans from having to pay to protect their own personal data in the aftermath of the data breach at Equifax, which affected 143 million people.
“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 in a statement Friday. “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.”
The bill would also require all credit reporting bureaus to refund any fees they charged consumers for freezing their credit in the wake of the Equifax breach, the lawmakers said.
The legislation is the latest move by Washington to crack down on the credit industry, adding to a growing list of congressional hearings and investigations by regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission, which announced a probe into the Equifax breach on Thursday.