The Equifax Data Breach and How Equifax is Stealthily Using Arbitration to Defeat Claims by Injured Consumers

by Jeff Sovern

Scott posted yesterday about the Equifax data breach, which may end up being as significant a consumer scandal as the Wells Fargo unauthorized account fiasco.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, the disclosure of the Equifax announcement is extraordinary, coming on the same day Congress considered a bill to limit damages against credit reporting agencies–like Equifax (Allison posted on the hearing yesterday). Scott's post included a link to the Equifax web site that enables people to determine if they are affected by the Equifax breach. But there' s one problem: the Equifax web site includes an arbitration clause with a class action waiver.  It looks like (as Paul Bland has reported) consumers signing up for the free credit monitoring may unwittingly give up their right to sue Equifax in court or in a class action–which might be the only cost-effective way to bring a claim against Equifax unless your damages from the breach are huge. Clever lawyering–but this could make a public relations fiasco even worse if they try to enforce it. Just ask Wells Fargo.  

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