Equifax Is Proving Why Forced Arbitration Clauses Ought to Be Banned, Just Like the CFPB Wants to Do

(THE INTERCEPT) September 8, 2017 — EQUIFAX, THE CREDIT REPORTING BUREAU that on Thursday admitted one of the largest data breaches in history, affecting 143 million U.S. consumers, is maneuvering to prevent victims from banding together to sue the company, according to consumer protection advocates and elected officials.

Equifax is offering all those affected by the breach a free, one-year credit monitoring service called TrustedID Premier, which will watch credit reports for suspicious activity, lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, scan the internet for Social Security numbers, and add insurance for identity theft. But the service includes a forced arbitration clause, which pushes all disputes over the monitoring out of court. It also includes a waiver of the right to enter into a class-action lawsuit.

This shields TrustedID Premier from legal exposure, instead relying on a process that’s very favorable to corporate interests. At first the arbitration clause was a non-negotiable feature of the contract. Now Equifax says you can opt out, but only if you contact them in writing within 30 days.

There’s already a proposed class-action suit against Equifax itself, arguing that the company failed to protect consumer data and exposed hundreds of millions to identity theft. But if you can’t sue over the credit monitoring but only the credit breach, it could significantly lessen the damages at issue. Also the language of the arbitration clause is fairly broad, saying that those who agree to the credit monitoring “will be forfeiting your right to bring or participate in any class action … or to share in any class awards, even if the facts and circumstances upon which the claims are based already occurred or existed.” Presumably some defense lawyer is thinking up a clever way to apply that to the Equifax breach itself.

Source: Equifax Is Proving Why Forced Arbitration Clauses Ought to Be Banned, Just Like the CFPB Wants to Do