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Bill Eliminating Credit Report Freeze Fee For Floridians Passes First House Panel

CFO's Press Office

Ever been the victim of a data breach? Maybe you were part of last year’s breach involving one of the largest credit agencies, Equifax. But, in Florida, if you wanted to place a freeze on your credit report, Equifax could still charge you a fee. Now, a bill is starting to move in the Florida House to eliminate that cost to consumers.

It’s bad enough when you have to place a freeze on your own credit card, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

“It can happen to anyone,” he said, during a recent press conference. “It happened to me recently. I had a credit card breach. I jumped through the hurdles of calling the credit card companies, letting them know that I was getting spending alerts. And, the vulnerability not only affects people like myself, but especially our seniors. We’ve got to make it easier for them to protect their credit.”

Under current Florida law, the Big Three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—can charge a fee of up to 10 dollars for someone who has had their identity stolen or data breached.

The only way to avoid the fee is to submit a police report to prove your claim.

“Now, recent widespread data breaches with companies, like Target, Equifax, and Uber, those entities out there have violated the personal information of our citizens of the state of Florida,” Patronis added. And, the implications of what that could do to our 20 million citizens in the state of Florida is just not acceptable. So, as we’re working—our office, Commissioner [Adam] Putnam’s office, with our legislative leaders to propose policy to eliminate the freeze fee.”

The bill to eliminate the credit report freeze fee is by Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa).

“House Bill 953 proposes to ease the burden on consumers, who are looking to protect themselves from fraud by placing a freeze on their credit report,” he said. “So, to add insult to injury, if you’ve had your identity stolen or there’s been some data breach of some sort, you can freeze your own credit, so that no one can do further damage, but, you have to pay a fee for that. This bill would eliminate that fee.”

And, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)—who’s sponsoring the Senate bill—feels the same way.

“I look forward to working with Rep. Harrison,” he said. “Data is the new currency. Imagine your bank charging you to protect your money, once someone by stole it. That doesn’t make any sense. You shouldn’t have to pay the bank for them to protect your money. At the end of the day, this is really about consumer protections and this bill will add to the vital consumer protection that we need in the state.”

It’s unknown what the elimination of the fee would do to the consumer reporting credit agencies, like Equifax. But, according to the House bill’s staff analysis, this will decrease their revenues.

The Senate companion bill has not yet been heard any committees.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.