GOP rep pitches fines for hacked credit-monitoring firms

Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP fights off primary challengers in deep-red Texas House lines up energy bill amendments on oil exports, pipeline permits Lawmakers press toymaker for hack details MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday floated the possibility that credit-monitoring firms like Equifax pay consumers if their accounts are hacked, noting continual security breaches could mean hearings each year.

“We could have this hearing every year from now on if we don’t do something to change the current system,” Barton said to former Equifax CEO Richard Smith during his testimony in front of the House Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection. 

“I would hope that you’d go back to your peers and work with the committee chairman and the subcommittee chairman, ranking member, and let’s figure out something to do that actually gives an incentive to the industry to protect ourselves,” the Texas Republican added.


Barton, a founder of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said the only solution he sees is to fine Equifax for each account that is breached.

The congressman said it’s time for the federal government to “put some teeth into” the issue, suggesting a law that would force credit-monitoring companies to pay consumers if their personal information is compromised. Barton also noted that Equifax currently is only required to notify consumers of the breach.

“I understand that your company has to sustain business, has to make money, but it would seem to me that you might pay a little bit more attention to security if you had to pay every account that got hacked a couple of thousand bucks,” he said.

Smith retired late last month after a breach affecting approximately 143 million people was reported. Equifax said hackers gained access to the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other personal information of the affected consumers.

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