National Consumers League

NCL: Congress should move to address outrageous Equifax conduct in wake of breach

September 19, 2017

Contact: John Breyault, NCL, (202) 207-2819, johnb@nclnet.org or Cindy Hoang, (202) 207-2832, cindyh@nclnet.org

Washington, DC - The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, is calling on Congress, in the strongest possible terms, to hold data brokers responsible for the massive increase in consumers’ data security risk stemming from the breach of 143 million records at Equifax. Since the revelation of the breach earlier this month, it has been reported that Equifax failed to heed warnings about well-known security vulnerabilities in critical systems.

“Equifax was made aware of this exploitable vulnerability, given a patch to prevent it, and then sat on its hands for weeks without action,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “What is to prevent any company that collects our most private data from exposing millions of consumers to theft if there are few serious consequences? Where are the incentives to protect our data? That is what is lacking today and why we see breach after breach.”

“Congress needs to act. We need a federal law that holds companies accountable for keeping our information safe. And there must be dire consequences when they fail to do so through sheer negligence,” Greenberg said. “Such consequences should include automatic repayment for damages, regulation of the data brokers, and potentially even criminal liability.”

NCL is calling on Congress to act; we support those consumer champions in Congress who have introduced legislation that would begin to address consumers’ vulnerability to breaches. These include:

  • Freedom From Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act - NCL applauds Senator Schatz (D-HI) and Senator Warren (D-MA) for introducing legislation that will help consumers reduce their risks of identity fraud. The bill creates a uniform federal process for obtaining and lifting a credit freeze for free. In addition, consumers can receive one additional free credit report and get a refund for any fee credit reporting agencies levied against them when they froze their credit to prevent identity theft.

  • Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act of 2017 - This common-sense privacy and security legislation, introduced by Senators Blumenthal, Franken, Markey, and Whitehouse, would allow consumers to monitor brokers’ collection of personal data for any inaccuracies in a free and easy-to-use way through a centralized website. The bill also requires data brokers like Equifax to develop and maintain robust privacy and data security programs and provide prompt notice in the event of breaches.

While NCL supports these bills, we await passage of a long-awaited national data security standard, which includes data breach notification requirements modeled after strong state laws in places like Illinois and California. As massive data breaches like Equifax’s become more common, exposing hundreds of millions of consumers to identify theft and other fraud, the need for this legislation will only become more critical. It is long past time for Congress to take action.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.