WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is expanding her probe into the Equifax data breach to regulators and other major credit bureaus, and is questioning the industry’s business model.
"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 press release. Warren was planning to introduce a bill Friday with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, aimed at reforming the credit reporting industry.
“Congress must act to protect consumer privacy, along with people’s ability to get a loan, to buy a car, or even get a new job,” Schatz said in the press release. “There’s a lot at stake here.”
The Democratic bill would create a federal obligation for credit reporting agencies to offer free credit freezes, prevent credit bureaus from selling consumer information while a freeze is in place and require them to offer an additional annual free credit report.
Warren also sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Government Accountability Office and other credit bureaus.
In the letter to the GAO, Warren raised questions over why Equifax notified the public 40 days after discovering its data breach. She said the company's response “raised several concerns” because Equifax did not provide the 143 million affected consumers with specific information on whether their personal information such as social security numbers and dates of birth were compromised. Instead, the website that Equifax created in response to discovering the breach said consumer data “may have” been exposed. On the site, Equifax offered a free credit monitoring service for a certain length of time, but after that period customers will be charged to continue the service.
“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," Warren said.
The bill has 10 Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Ron Wyden of Oregon; Richard Durbin of Illinois; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; and Al Franken of Minnesota.