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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks during the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee hearing in the Capitol building on July 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks during the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee hearing in the Capitol building on July 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sen. Warren Introduces Legislation to Save Consumers From 'Equifax Exploitation'

"Companies like Equifax make billions selling access to your data without your consent, then charge you if you want to stop them. It's nuts."

Jake Johnson

On the heels of Equifax's massive data breach and its subsequent efforts to force victims into a "rip-off clause" that prevents them from filing class-action lawsuits against the company, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday announced that she is both launching an investigation into the credit-reporting giant's security practices and introducing legislation (pdf) that would "give control over credit and personal information back to consumers."

"Watch out Equifax. Elizabeth Warren is coming after you."
—Kate Samuelson, Fortune
Along with placing more power in the hands of consumers and strengthening fraud protections, the legislation—titled the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act, which Warren introduced alongside Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)—would also limit the power of companies like Equifax by barring them from "charging consumers for freezing and unfreezing access to their credit files."

As the Washington Post's Brian Fung notes, consumers are usually charged anywhere from $5 to $10 to freeze and unfreeze their credit, depending on the 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," Fung observes.

Warren said in a statement on Friday that "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."

Passing the FREE Act, Warren concluded, would be "a first step toward reforming the broken credit reporting industry."

"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. "Passing this bill is a first step toward reforming the broken credit reporting industry."

Warren also said Friday that she is moving ahead with an investigation into both the causes of the Equifax breach and the company's response.

Kicking off the probe, Warren penned a letter (pdf) to Equifax criticizing the agency for failing to "provide the necessary information describing exactly how [the data breach] happened."

Warren also observed that Equifax's "efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights."

"I am troubled by this attack...and by the fact that it represents the third recent instance of a data breach of Equifax or its subsidiaries that has endangered American's personal information," Warren concluded. "And I have deep concerns about the initial response by Equifax."

In a piece for Fortune on Friday, Kate Samuelson argued the credit-reporting giant has reason to worry, now that the progressive firebrand is officially on their case.

"Watch out Equifax," Samuelson's headline reads, "Elizabeth Warren is coming after you."


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