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Hirono Urges Equifax to End Limits on Consumer Rights

September 12, 2017, 10:00 AM HST
* Updated September 12, 9:21 AM
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U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono, Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) have called on Equifax—the credit bureau whose consumer database was recently hacked—to end its use of forced agreements that limit consumers’ rights to file class action lawsuits against the company.

In a letter sent to Equifax, Sen. Hirono and 19 other U.S. Senate Democrats pressured the company’s CEO Richard Smith to end forced arbitration clauses in consumer agreements.

“Forced arbitration provisions in consumer contracts erode Americans’ ability to seek justice in the courts by forcing them into a privatized system that is inherently rigged against consumers and which offers virtually no way to challenge a biased outcome,” wrote the Senators. “Forced arbitration clauses, like the one that appeared in the TrustedID Terms of Use, require consumers to sign away their constitutional right to seek accountability in a court of law. Although Equifax has since removed the clause from the TrustedID Terms of Use – a move we applaud – we are concerned that the company may still support the use of forced arbitration more broadly.”

The Senators also called on Equifax to clarify its position on a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to limit the use of forced consumer agreements in the financial services sector.

Equifax is one of the three largest credit bureaus in the country. The company gathers and stores personal consumer information including Social Security numbers, home addresses and consumer financial information to determine consumer credit scores in the U.S.

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During the week of Sept. 4, 2017, Equifax announced that their databases had been hacked in a massive cyberattack earlier in the summer, compromising sensitive information for some 143 million Americans. Following the announcement, news reports revealed that the terms of use for Equifax’s credit monitoring and identity theft product TrustedID—offered to those affected by the breach—included a clause that forces wronged consumers into private settlement and limits the ability of groups to band together in class-action lawsuits against the company. Equifax removed the TrustedID clause as a result, according to a news release from Sen. Hirono’s office. However, the company’s general terms of service which apply to all Equifax products and services still include a similar clause.

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The letter was also signed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), 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.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), 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.).

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