Government

Iowa Attorney General Miller seeks to dump fees for freezing credit reports

Iowa move comes after Equifax security breach

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller speaks at an October new conference in Cedar Rapids. Miller on Thursday said he will ask state lawmakers to eliminate fees that credit rating agencies charge Iowans to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller speaks at an October new conference in Cedar Rapids. Miller on Thursday said he will ask state lawmakers to eliminate fees that credit rating agencies charge Iowans to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is asking state lawmakers to eliminate fees that credit rating agencies can charge customers for a security freeze.

The request comes four months after the Equifax data breach that exposed 143 million people nationwide to possible identity theft.

Miller says 1.1 million Iowans were affected.

“I just don’t think these fees are fair to Iowa consumers, and the Equifax case is exhibit A,” Miller said Thursday. “If a company you have no control over exposes your personal information through negligence as a result of someone else’s criminal act, you shouldn’t get left holding the bag simply because you want to protect yourself from identity thieves through credit freezes.”

Miller’s proposal would limit fees on placing, removing, temporarily suspending or reinstating a security freeze.

In addition, the proposal requires that credit rating agencies move faster to enact and suspend freezes and expands the way to request them. It also allows for freezes to be applied to other credit rating agencies.

Experian and TransUnion are the other nationwide credit rating agencies.

Equifax announced the breach this past September and took a number of steps in the aftermath to deal with the issue, including waiving fees to freeze or unfreeze accounts. That waiver, though, is scheduled to end Jan. 31.

Miller says Iowa law allows agencies to charge customers $10 to freeze an account, $10 to lift the freeze and $12 to temporarily lift the freeze. The latter, Miller said, is the highest fee for a temporary lift in the country.

He notes those costs would be tripled to cover all three nationwide reporting agencies.

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Officials at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion could not be immediately reached Thursday afternoon for comment.

Individual states have their own laws dealing with credit freezes. Iowa and other states don’t allow fees if a consumer is the victim of identity theft, according to a chart provided by the Attorney General’s Office. But some states have banned fees even when security freezes are requested by people who haven’t been victimized.

The Illinois House passed a bill in October that would prohibit fees for freezing and unfreezing a credit report, but it has not been acted upon by the Senate.

This past year, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, introduced a bill in Congress to prohibit fees.

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