September 11, 2017

Following Brown's Urging, Equifax Removes Forced Arbitration From Credit Monitoring, Further Action Needed



Senator Warns Customers’ Rights May Still be in Jeopardy until Policy is Applied to All Products, Websites

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following demands by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – Equifax has removed forced arbitration clauses from TrustedID free credit monitoring and identity protection services offered to customers after a data breach exposed 143 million Americans to identify theft. However, Brown warns that while Equifax’s corporate and affiliated websites still contain forced arbitration language, customers’ rights may not be fully protected.

After news of the breach broke last week, Equifax initially included forced arbitration clauses in the terms of use agreement customers must sign in order to get free credit monitoring and identity theft services it is offering.  Equifax removed the arbitration clauses over the weekend from the TrustedID product, after Brown demanded they take action Friday. Still arbitration language that applies to all of their products remains on the site, and their overall policy remains unclear. The clauses effectively force victims of the breach to sign away their rights to access the court system and join a class action lawsuit.

Brown supports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to bar forced arbitration clauses in all financial agreements – which would eliminate the confusion on this instance and ensure customers’ rights are always protected.

“This is a step in the right direction, but customers cannot be sure their rights are truly protected until Equifax makes this policy clear for all products and websites,” Brown said.  “The fact that it took a public shaming to force Equifax to drop forced arbitration from TrustedID, is further proof why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule is needed. Too many financial companies, including Wells Fargo, continue to use forced arbitration to block customers from seeking justice once they’ve been cheated or harmed.”

Today, Brown joined Senators Franken (D-Minn) and Cortez Masto (D-Nev) and Sens. Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N. Dak.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.) in a letter calling on Equifax to clarify terms of use for credit monitoring and identity theft services provided to data breach victims as well as clarifying their arbitration clause.

Tomorrow, Brown will join his Republican counterpart on the Banking Committee, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), in holding a hearing to examine the landscape of Financial Technology, or FinTech.  Brown will use the hearing as an opportunity to question witnesses about ways to better protect customer data from future breaches.