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But Wait, There’s Less – Equifax Settlement Update

We know we told you yesterday about the Equifax settlement and how you could make a claim in connection with the breach. Well, consumers whose personal information was compromised in Equifax’s massive 2017 data breach are in for another surprise: they may not receive the entire $125 payout option initially offered following Equifax’s settlement agreement with the FTC.

The Pool Was Too Small

The settlement agreement included the establishment of a $300 million fund, with a potential additional $125 million, to provide affected consumers with credit monitoring services, and to compensate consumers who bought credit or identify monitoring services from Equifax and paid other out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the 2017 breach. The FTC did not say, however, that only a relatively paltry $31 million of the potential $425 million was set aside for consumers who elect to receive the $125 cash payout option (instead of credit monitoring services), according to a blog post on Wednesday from the FTC’s Assistant Director of Privacy and Identity Protection.  Spoiler alert:  $31 million will not cut it.

According to the FTC’s blog post, consumer response to the $125 cash payout option was, “overwhelming,” and as a result, “each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money” which will be “nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.” 

What Now?

The “good” news, according to the FTC, is that all 147 million people will be able to sign up for (and actually receive) free credit monitoring services. The FTC notes to consumers, “Frankly, the free credit monitoring is worth a lot more – the market value would be hundreds of dollars a year. And this monitoring service is probably stronger and more helpful than any you may have already, because it monitors your credit report at all three nationwide credit reporting agencies, and it comes with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and individualized identity restoration services.” That may not be consolation to those consumers expecting an extra $125 in their pockets.

Consumers who paid money out-of-pocket for their own credit freezes, or hired third party services to assist with identify theft after the breach, may be in (relative) luck. The FTC tells us, “there is still money available under the settlement to reimburse people for what they paid out of their pocket to recover from the breach,” and “the settlement has a larger pool of money for just those people.” 

Consumers who have already submitted a claim for the cash payout should keep an eye out for an email from the settlement administrator, inquiring about any credit monitoring services already in place, and offering an opportunity to choose free credit monitoring services in place of the cash payout (or what is left of it).

Many questions remain about distribution of the settlement fund. We will continue to monitor news coming from the FTC. Check back regularly for updates, and subscribe to Mintz Insights here.

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Christopher J. Buontempo is a Mintz corporate attorney and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP). He has significant experience handling issues relating to technology, data privacy and security, brand protection, contract negotiation, licensing, and product development.

Cynthia J. Larose

Member / Co-Chair, Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice

Cynthia J. Larose is Chair of the firm's Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice, a Certified Information Privacy Professional-US (CIPP-US), and a Certified Information Privacy Professional-Europe (CIPP-E). She works with clients in various industries to develop comprehensive information security programs on the front end, and provides timely counsel when it becomes necessary to respond to a data breach.