After we, and a ton of other news outlets, shared stories on the controversial aspects of Equifax’s credit monitoring service, the company has decided to kick the condition, making it safer for consumers. Sure, the free credit monitoring service offered by Equifax to the victims of its massive data breach left a lot to be desired, the company is changing one of the more controversial aspects of the program for the better. This condition would have stripped consumers of their right to file a lawsuit in court after signing on to the service, and we, as consumer advocates, weren’t the biggest fan of that. As Equifax drops its controversial condition from their free Credit Monitoring Service, we suggest that you now sign up for it.
That clause did two things. First, it strips all TrustedID users of their right to file a lawsuit against the service in a court of law. Instead, all legal disputes would have to be settled outside of the legal system through private arbitration. Second, it barred users from joining their disputes together into a class-action, even through arbitration.
So imagine if there was a second data breach, this time of TrustedID users. Each individual customer would have to go through private arbitration one at a time. Arbitration results set no precedents and are often confidential. That means that each case — even though they would all effectively share the same allegations — could have a different outcome, and there’d likely be no public record of these decisions.
The presence in the arbitration clause for TrustedID led to a lot of people being very concerned that Equifax was trying to backdoor more than 100 million people into signing away their right to sue the company over the underlying breach. Last week, Equifax told Consumerist in a statement that the arbitration clause only applied to the TrustedID service and not to the original theft of consumer data.
That still didn’t ease concerns, with customers and consumer advocates calling for Equifax to ditch the arbitration clause altogether.
This morning, Equifax obliged. In an update to the EquifaxSecurity2017 homepage, the company said that it has removed the clause from its terms from the breach response page and clarified that enrolling in TrustedID as part of this breach response “does not waive any rights to take legal action.”
It looks like customers who sign up for TrustedID on their own outside of this site are, however, still agreeing to cede their right to a day in court.
The legal rights advocates at Public Citizen simultaneously applauded the decision to remove the clause in this case, while pointing out that Equifax still has a long way to go.
“It maintains a forced arbitration clause on its primary website, which by its terms extends to TrustedID.com,” explains Public Citizen. “Consumers cannot depend on financial corporations to do the right thing. We need a guaranteed protection of our right to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing through class-action lawsuits.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently passed new rules that would have barred Equifax and a number of other financial services companies from using forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. However, bank-backed lawmakers and the Trump administration are currently attempting to stop those rules from going into effect. The House of Representatives has already approved a measure that would undo the CFPB rules; the Senate has until later this fall to decide whether it chooses the American people or the interests of the commercial banking and retail lobbies.
Regardless of this change by the company, we still ask that if you were affected in any way by this Equifax breach, that you reach out to us through our online complaint portal or directly through email at ConsiderTheConsumer@gmail.com. Consider The Consumer is working with many different organizations to help aid this mishap as easily as possible for consumers all over the world. We have reached out to many different law firms and agencies alike, and aspire to help as many different people as we possibly can. So, please, contact us today!