A federal class-action lawsuit alleges credit bureau TransUnion illegally charges $10 before it places security freezes on the files of people who are dealing with identity theft.
Lead plaintiff Jon Niermann, of Austin, Texas, said that after someone opened a Wells Fargo credit card account in his name in April 2014, he closed the account before charges were made and notified law enforcement. He also contacted the major credit bureaus and asked for security notices to be placed on his account to prevent unauthorized use of his name or credit. "Experian promptly complied with his request," the complaint states. "TransUnion, however, did not comply with his request, but instead mailed a form letter requiring that he pay a $10 charge before TransUnion would place the security freeze on his file." Niermann states he sent TransUnion six requests to place a freeze on his account, but was refused each time unless he first paid $10. The lawsuit notes that Texas law "allows credit-reporting agencies to charge a reasonable fee' not to exceed $10 for placing a security freeze, [but] does not make the credit-reporting agencies duty to place the security freeze within five business days conditional on the payment of the charge, nor does it allow credit-reporting agencies to delay placing the security freeze until after the charge is paid, according to the complaint. The law in several states, including Texas, according to the complaint, exempts identity theft victims, who provide a police report, from paying a fee to place or remove security freezes. Niermann argues TransUnion refused to place a freeze on his file for six weeks until he contacted the firm's outside counsel and explained the situation. The complaint states that TransUnion felt the police report Niermann submitted was not generally accepted as a valid report, thus the delay.
Niermann argued that TransUnion's repeated form letters show that TransUnion has a policy and practice of unlawfully charging consumers a fee or requiring them to provide a police report, investigative report or complaint involving the alleged commission of an identity theft offense as a pre-condition to placing a security freeze," in violation of the Texas law. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages on behalf of a class including anyone who sought a credit freeze on their file, as well as a subclass of identity theft victims, for violations of the Texas Consumer Credit Reporting Act. The class is represented by Michael Caddell with Caddell & Chapman in Houston.