OLYMPIA – The House and Senate continue to work together to protect consumers after the largest credit reporting agency breach in history. Bills that would eliminate the $10 fee currently in state law advanced in both chambers to the Rules committee, then after agreement to save time on the floor, the Senate version passed out of the House. Floor action on the measure occurred this week, as the Legislature gets closer to its next deadline. The current $10 fee is now charged when consumers want to freeze, or unfreeze their credit information.
SHB 2384 / (ESB 6018) would remove the ability of credit reporting agencies to impose a fee for placing, temporarily lifting, or removing a security freeze. The measures have received bi partisan support in both chambers.
“Every time someone applies for a rental apartment, or a new cell phone contract, or to buy a car it could cost $30 to unfreeze and $30 to freeze their credit report with the three big agencies,” said the bill’s prime sponsor Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-Tukwila), Chair of the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee. “I don’t think it is right that consumers are paying to protect their data when credit agencies are the ones making that data vulnerable.”
In 2017, hackers accessed the data of over 143 million Americans from credit reporting agency Equifax. Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the United States that calculates credit scores.
In an effort to protect themselves from identity theft, many consumers rushed to the credit reporting agency’s websites to freeze their credit, only to find that doing so came with a cost. The big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) all charge to both freeze and unfreeze your credit information.
“This bill is an important, bipartisan consumer protection measure that will make it easier for people to protect themselves and their identities without financial penalties,” said Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), chair of the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee and prime sponsor of the Senate bill. “Consumers whose sensitive financial data has been exposed through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to pay to protect their credit ratings.”
The bill also requires a study of the impact on consumers, and the credit reporting agencies, related to the removal of these fees.
“It’s not right to charge these fees when people are simply trying to protect their personal data from online theft,” Hudgins said “This measure will ensure that all Washingtonians can protect their identities by freezing their credit without paying a fee to do so. It’s the right thing to do.”