Lawsuit Underscores Importance of CFPB Forced Arbitration Rulemaking
October 16, 2017 | Press Release
Washington, D.C. – In the wake of the massive data breach at Equifax, which exposed sensitive personal information of the majority of American adults, small financial institutions have filed class action lawsuits against Equifax to recover financial harms related to the breach.
The first lawsuit, led by Summit Credit Union, details the significant financial costs that will be incurred by small financial institutions due to the Equifax breach. The second lawsuit, led by Bank of Louisiana, Aventa Credit Union, and First Choice Federal Credit Union, alleges that Equifax violated federal law.
“By teaming up with others, credit unions stand a better shot at taking on a big company that harmed them,” said Michael Best, Director of Advocacy Outreach at CFA. “Unfortunately, consumers are often thwarted from the same opportunity to be heard in front of a jury of their peers.”
Small financial institutions regularly group together to recoup losses from massive data breaches. For example, banks filed class action lawsuits against Target and Home Depot. However, when consumers seek to take on large financial companies like Equifax as a group, those companies exercise “forced arbitration” clauses that eliminate a consumer’s choice about how to resolve their claim.
“Credit unions understand firsthand that the ability of smaller entities to band together in court is crucial to address misconduct of more powerful bad actors like Equifax,” said Christine Hines, Legislative Director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “That’s why the CFPB issued its arbitration rule to restore this right for consumers.”
Under a new rule finalized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers can still be subject to forced arbitration, but they cannot be restricted from joining together with other consumers in group claims, including class action lawsuits.
When consumers have disputes with credit unions, credit unions typically offer them a choice on how to pursue their claim. According to data from the CFPB, 97% of credit unions do not force consumers into arbitration in their credit card agreements, while 60% of large banks did. According to the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, these forced arbitration arrangements are of “limited value.” The organization also wrote to Congress that making arbitration voluntary leads to the best results.
Large banks are currently pressuring Congress to overturn the CFPB’s new rule that restores choice to consumers. Just as small credit unions should have the right to group together to recover losses from Equifax, advocates for consumers and military families across the country believe that every American deserves these rights, as well.
Contact: Michael Best, CFA, 202-939-1009; Christine Hines, NACA, 202-452-1989, ext.109
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.
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By Susan Grant, CFA Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy
October 4, 2017 | Blog Post
In response to the Equifax data breach, many consumers are asking the credit reporting agencies to put a security freeze on their credit files. That’s certainly a good idea if your Social Security number and other personal information were exposed in this breach (you can go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on “Was I Impacted?” and put in your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number to find out). It’s something that you might want to consider even if you weren’t affected, because as we’ve previously explained, a freeze can protect you from certain types of identity theft.
Until November 21, 2017, Equifax is offering an identity theft service, for which it normally charges a monthly fee, free for a year to any individuals who want to enroll in it, regardless of whether their information was involved in the breach. This service includes the option to “lock” your Equifax credit file. The lock has exactly the same effect as a security freeze.
But you don’t have to enroll in this service or use the lock feature to protect your Equifax credit file. You can ask Equifax to freeze your file by:
And now through January 31, 2018 Equifax is waiving the small fee that it normally charges to set a freeze, lift it, or remove it.
So what are differences between locking and freezing your credit file? For one thing, if you lock your Equifax file through the free identity theft service, it will only stay locked for 12 months, when the service ends. On the other hand, if you put freezes on your files at Equifax and the other two major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, they will last until you remove them. You can lift a freeze temporarily if you need to allow someone to check your credit file and then reset it, and you can permanently remove freezes whenever you choose.
Equifax has just announced that it’s going to offer free locking for life starting at the end of January 2018. We don’t know the details yet – will there be strings attached? That remains to be seen.
Advertisements for locking services often emphasize how easy and quick they are to use. The process to set and lift freezes may take a bit longer and not be as seamless, but it’s not hard to do. You may have to pay a small fee each time you want to set, lift and reset a freeze (some state laws entitle residents to get freezes free in certain circumstances; you can find that information in the sections about freezes on the credit reporting agencies’ websites). Even if you have to pay, it might add up to less than the cost of subscribing to a service that includes a lock. Ultimately, we’d like to see free freezes for everyone and the ability to set and lift them made simpler and faster.
To freeze your credit files at TransUnion and Experian, see below.
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