FREE Act Would Give Consumers Control Over Credit Information in Wake of Equifax Data Breach


Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On September 15, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act to give consumers control over their credit information in the wake of the massive Equifax data breach that compromised the personal data of as many as 143 million Americans, according a press release on Senator Warren’s website.

“Our bill gives consumers more control over their own personal data and prohibits companies like Equifax from charging consumers for freezing and unfreezing access to their credit files,” Senator Warren stated in the press release about the FREE Act. “Passing this bill is a first step toward reforming the broken credit reporting industry.”

Equifax – along with Experian and TransUnion – is one of three nationwide credit reporting agencies that collect financial data on millions of Americans.  If consumers wish to limit how credit reporting agencies use this information – such as by placing a credit freeze on their file – they often must pay a fee even though they never gave the agency permission to collect their data in the first place.

The Warren-Schatz Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act addresses this problem by giving consumers more control over how their personal financial data is used and secured by these credit reporting agencies, and more tools to protect themselves in the wake of the Equifax data breach. According to a fact sheet for the FREE Act, the bill would empower consumers by:

  • Creating a uniform, federal process for obtaining and lifting a credit freeze.
  • Requiring credit reporting agencies to allow consumers to impose, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a credit freeze for free.
  • Preventing the credit reporting agencies from profiting off the use of consumers’ information for the duration of their credit freeze.
  • Enhancing fraud alert protections.
  • Allowing consumers to get a refund on any fee credit reporting agencies charged them to impose a credit freeze in the wake of the Equifax data breach.
  • Providing the opportunity for consumers to get an additional free credit report.

Original co-sponsors of the Equifax data breach legislation include Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.). The complete text of the FREE Act is available here.

Senator Warren also launched an investigation into the Equifax data breach by sending letters to Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the causes of the data breach and to address problems at credit reporting agencies to better protect consumers.

As reported earlier by ESR News, employers concerned about credit reports used for background checks being affected by the massive Equifax data breach that compromised the personal information almost half the country “can breathe somewhat easier knowing their employees won’t be affected,” according to the Bloomberg BNA article ‘Should Equifax Data Breach Worry Employers?’

“I don’t think there’s a risk to consumers in terms of credit reports that are ordered by employers,” Brad Landin, President and Chief Compliance Officer of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a global background check firm located in the San Francisco area, told Bloomberg BNA in an interview about the Equifax data breach. Landin has over 25 years of experience in screening industry compliance.

Landin also said the it was “unlikely employer credit checks for hiring purposes will be affected” by the Equifax data breach since most credit report checks used by employers come through resellers of credit information and not directly from Equifax. “I’m highly confident that the availability of Equifax credit reports is largely unaffected,” he concluded. The complete Bloomberg BNA article is available here.

SOC 2 Audits Help Protect Against Events Such as Equifax Data Breach

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a strategic choice for businesses needing accuracy and compliance in their screening programs – has successfully completed a SOC 2® Type 2 data security audit for 2017 to ensure that ESR protects the privacy, security, and confidentiality of consumer background check information. To learn more about ESR, visit

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