Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, is responsible to collect detailed data from American consumers, including driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and more. Earlier this month, a massive data breach was revealed that may impact as many as 143 million Americans. As many as 209,000 people have had their credit card information, and personal identifying information was exposed on some 182,000 consumers involved in disputes on their credit report.
Despite this, Republican lawmakers continue their push for deregulation of credit agencies, as well as the strength of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The hack is a major deal not only for the fact that Equifax is one of just three national credit reporting companies responsible to rate and track the financial history of consumers. It’s also notable that Equifax won’t be contacting everyone who was affected – only those who dispute records or credit card information was accessed. The company has recommended consumers sign up for identity theft protection, which it is offering free for one year. Doing so, however, may limit your right to file a consumer rights lawsuit against the firm later, instead forcing you into arbitration, unless you file notice with the company within 30 days that you choose to opt out.
It should be noted that over the summer, the CFPB – a prime target of GOP politicians – handed down a rule prohibiting rip-off clauses. These clauses are seen as an invaluable tool by banks and other financial firms to evade accountability when they con, defraud, fleece or cheat consumers. It’s often buried in the fine print of consumer contracts. The CFPB rule would prohibit contract terms that ban consumers from banding together to hold banks liable in class action consumer rights litigation.
House Republicans, however, have been hammering away at the rule with the Congressional Review Act, voting to reverse the CFPB rule shortly after it was finalized. Senators have until November to take their action. Opponents need only a majority of votes to claim victory on this issue.
The rule was adopted after the CFPB finished one of the most comprehensive reviews ever of these rip-off clauses. As our Miami consumer rights lawyers know, the research of the agency firmly proved class action lawsuits are the only truly effective remedy for consumers that affect large numbers of people suffering small damages.
Think about it this way: A bank rips you off for $75. You aren’t going to launch into a personal lawsuit to recover that. It would be cost-prohibitive. But is it fair that the company should skate free for the wrongdoing? Absolutely not. That’s why it makes sense for all the consumers to collectively ban together to hold the company accountable. The company pays – and it also serves as an important deterrent for future misconduct.
When companies force arbitration and class action is forbidden, we’ll see far less accountability. The agency found almost no one files individual arbitration cases on their small claims. There were less than 25 annually on cases less than $1,000.
Although the individual suffering may not be great, the company would still be getting away with theft on a grand scale – sometimes to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
Equifax shows Republicans must end attacks on financial regulation, Sept. 20, 2017, By Robert Weissman, Opinion, The Hill
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