Washington bill would eliminate fees for credit freezes

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bill with bi-partisan support in the state Legislature would make it illegal for credit bureaus to charge users for putting a security freeze or other theft protection measures on their credit.

Senate Bill 6018 would give money back to consumers, proponents said, who often times aren't at fault when their identity is stolen.

The three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - charge customers $10 for putting a freeze on their credit; one of the first steps consumers should take when targeted with identity theft. It also takes $10 to un-freeze credit, and can cost for other credit-protection services like assigning a new password.

State Senator Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, said this fee is unfair for consumers dealing with identity theft, especially since identity can be stolen from a third-party, like a big retail chain.

"Whether it was Target or Home Depot or Equifax last year," Mullet said, "(people) feel like they are keeping their information private on their end and they shouldn't be paying fees when somebody else is having breaches they're not responsible for."

The bill passed the Senate 46-2, and is expected to pass the state House, said Mullet, the sponsor of the bill. The only opposition he's seen is coming from the credit bureaus who don't want to be responsible for the fees.

"Their job is to try to keep the fee," Mullet said of the credit bureaus. "The revenue does go directly to them."

The ultimate goal of eliminating the fees for consumers would be to streamline the credit-freeze process. Since identity theft happens to millions of Americans each year, the process for freezing your credit should be simplified if it's such an important step, Mullet said.  Rather than calling credit bureaus and paying fees, freezing your credit should be one click away.

"The hope is they will make technology investments and it will make it easier to freeze your credit right on your phone," Mullet said.

EQUIFAX TOOL: Click here to use Equifax’s “Check Potential Impact” tool