Equifax steps back from ‘forced arbitration’

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Equifax steps back from ‘forced arbitration’

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Equifax Inc. offices in Atlanta. Credit monitoring company Equifax says a breach exposed social security numbers and other data from about 143 million Americans. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

In the wake of criticism from consumers and a U.S. senator, Equifax is saying that an arbitration requirement does not apply to those affected by a cyber-breach this summer of the company’s data.

In a statement on its web site, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax said: “In response to consumer inquiries, we have made it clear that the arbitration clause and class action waiver included in the Equifax and TrustedID Premier terms of use does not apply to this cyber-security incident.”

The company also said it has “tripled our call center team to over 2000 agents.”

“Our goal is to make this process as convenient and consistent as possible,” Equifax said on its web site. “We will continue to identify steps to improve this process.”

On Friday, Sen. Sherrod Brown — an Ohio Democrat and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs — took the company to task for the clause, calling on the company to immediately end the requirement.

Equifax Inc. — one of the biggest consumer credit reporting agencies — late last week acknowledged that it suffered a “cyber-security incident” that could affect about 143 million Americans.

As highlighted in a release from Brown’s office on Friday, the arbitration clause told visitors to the Equifax web site — including those checking whether they had been affected by the breach — that they must agree that “all claims, disputes, or controversies raised by either you or TrustedID, Inc. arising from or relating to the subject matter of this agreement or the products … shall be finally settled by arbitration.”

“It’s shameful that Equifax would take advantage of victims by forcing people to sign over their rights in order to get credit monitoring services they wouldn’t even need if Equifax hadn’t put them at risk in the first place,” Brown said in a statement Friday.

“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.”

“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 in a statement Monday.

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