Senator calls on Equifax to end ‘forced arbitration’

An Ohio senator wants Equifax to free consumers from an arbitration requirement.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, is calling on Equifax to immediately end a forced arbitration requirement from all services offered to customers following a data breach the company acknowledged Thursday.

In what is being called one of the largest exposures of sensitive financial data in years, Equifax Inc. — one of the biggest consumer credit reporting agencies — said it suffered a “cybersecurity incident” that could affect about 143 million U.S. consumers.

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The company said it “discovered the unauthorized access” on July 29 this year and “acted immediately” to deal with it. The first public announcement on the breach, however, was Thursday.

In a statement from Brown’s office, the senator takes issue with Equifax including “forced arbitration clauses” in the terms-of-use conditions to which customers must agree when signing up for the services, “effectively forcing victims of the breach to sign away their rights to seek access to court.”

Brown’s statement also highlights and quotes the company’s arbitration clauses.

“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, a Democrat, said in his statement. “If Equifax is genuine about wanting to protect customers, it must remove forced arbitration immediately from TrustedID and any other services offered to victims of the data breach.”

On Twitter, the senator said: "Now it's (Equifax) pushing credit monitoring w/a fine-print arbitration clause that requires victims to give up their right to seek justice in court."

The arbitration clause, as quoted in part by Brown’s office, tells users 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.”

A message seeking comment was sent to Equifax spokespeople.

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