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Bills Would Tighten Credit Check Rules, Make Credit Freezes Free

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Senate lawmakers are wasting little time in reacting to the Equifax breach. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reintroduced Thursday her Equal Employment for All Act to prohibit employers from requiring potential employees to disclose their credit history when applying for a job, while Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced a Free Credit Freeze Act, which would guarantee all consumers can use PINs to freeze and unfreeze their credit free of charge to stop fraudsters from opening new unauthorized financial accounts.

Warren noted the urgency has increased for such legislation in light of the Equifax breach, which “compromised millions of Americans’ security and jeopardized their credit.”

She originally introduced the bill in August 2015, noting at the time that “a bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is a reflection on an individual’s character or abilities.”

In her Thursday remarks in reintroducing the bill, Warren stated that the bill “is about basic fairness — let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills. It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance.”

Credit histories, she added, “are riddled with errors and the recent Equifax breach makes that much more likely.”

Wyden said in introducing his bill that “companies like Equifax that have stockpiled massive, insecure databases of Americans’ most sensitive personal data must make security the top priority at every single stage. Given the frequency of these mega breaches, it is simply unacceptable for the credit agencies to continue to charge hardworking Americans who want to protect their credit and their identity from fraudsters.”

Credit bureaus, Wyden said, charge consumers recurring fees as high as $15 each time they use their PIN numbers to freeze or unfreeze their credit reports.

The Free Credit Freeze Act “gives power back to consumers by requiring credit reporting agencies to provide credit freezes to consumers at no cost.”

The National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients) has endorsed the Free Credit Freeze Act.

“The Equifax data breach highlights the need for consumers to have more control over their credit reports, including the ability to freeze and unfreeze without charge,” said Chi Chi Wu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, in a statement. ”Senator Wyden’s bill does just that.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in Thursday comments on the Senate floor that “we need to get to the bottom of this, the very bottom, the murky bottom” of the Equifax breach, adding that the Senate must hold hearings on the breach “where these executives are called to account.” He cited concerns about potential insider trading after the breach by Equifax execs. 

He called on Equifax to “commit to proactively reach out to all impacted individuals to notify them that their personal, identifiable information may have been compromised, and if known, inform them of exactly what information has been released.”

— Check out Before Equifax Plunged, and After, No Analysts Dared to Say Sell on ThinkAdvisor.


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