By Bob Katzen

The House approved a new version of a bill that would prohibit consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person’s credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze.

A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower’s credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual’s name.

The proposal gained momentum following the 2017 crisis when, from May to July, the personal information including names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses and credit card numbers of 145 million Americans was stolen from Equifax’s systems. Equifax didn’t reveal the breach until September and consumers lost valuable time to act.

Other provisions of the bill prohibit businesses from obtaining a consumer’s credit report without obtaining written, verbal or electronic consent from the consumer; and improve notices and consumer information the companies are required to give.

“I am pleased the House moved legislation forward today that will help protect Massachusetts consumers from security breaches,” said Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), House Chair of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “We have worked hard to ensure that consumers have access to the resources needed after a breach occurs, while also making sure that the commonwealth is in step with federal data security regulations.”

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