Equifax Data Breach Litigation: Two Years Later
After two years, consumers finally have the next step toward ultimate resolution of the Equifax data breach that resulted in the compromise of 147 million individual’s personal information. A proposed settlement to a class action suit was submitted to a federal judge on July 22, 2019. The proposed settlement would resolve the class action suit, as well as investigations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and 48 state attorneys general, as well the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The proposed settlement, which does have preliminary approval, provides $300 million dollars to a fund accessible to those affected by the breach, with another $125 million dollars available if those funds are depleted. Additionally, Equifax will pay a $100 million civil money penalty, as well as other fines, to those agencies investigating the data breach. If approved, this will be the largest data breach settlement in history.
While law enforcement has never disclosed who was ultimately responsible for improperly accessing Equifax’s systems over 76 days in 2017, the CFPB alleges that Equifax engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices both before and after the breach. These allegations are due to assertions that Equifax failed to take adequate security measures to protect consumer’s personal data and subsequently deceived consumers about the strength of protections in place by representations in its privacy policies. Further, subsequent to the breach, the CFPB alleges Equifax engaged in actions that may have led to additional risk of harm to consumers. Equifax has been heavily criticized in its breach response due to the length of time Equifax waited to disclose its knowledge of the breach and the at-times inadequate measures it had in place to give consumers information related to the breach.
Equifax continues to deny any wrongdoing on its website set up to handle consumer claims as part of the proposed settlement (https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/), but consumers can visit this site to file complaints against Equifax. Consumers impacted by the breach are entitled to make a claim on the website, and may be eligible for free credit monitoring or a $125 payment if credit monitoring is already in place, compensation for time spent in handling and out of pockets costs of up to $20,000, and free identity restoration services.