Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, takes Equifax and the entire credit monitoring industry to task in a piece in which he calls Equifax’s response to a data breach “weak and dishonest.”

He also looks at the power held by credit reporting agencies and at their efforts to repeal a new federal regulation that upholds consumers’ rights to sue the companies. 

The top of his column is below. The entire piece can be found here.

BY MICHAEL HILTZIK: The data collection and monitoring firm Equifax has been properly flayed for the massive data breach it disclosed last week, as well as for its weak and dishonest response to the breach.

The firm has rectified some of the flaws in its response to the breach, which exposed the personal data of 143 million American consumers to hackers. But it hasn’t backed off from another action that would undermine consumers’ ability to hold the entire consumer monitoring industry accountable for such breaches: A concerted campaign to repeal a federal regulation upholding consumers’ rights to sue.

The regulation, issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on July 10 and scheduled to go into effect in mid-January, came under attack by Republicans in Congress “before the ink was even dry,” says Amanda Werner of Americans for Financial Reform, which is fighting to retain the rule. Under its provisions, financial firms would be prohibited from saddling consumers with arbitration clauses that prevent the consumers from filing or joining class-action lawsuits against the firms.

The rule wouldn’t cover the latest Equifax breach, which occurred before it was made final. But it would have prevented the confusion that arose last week in the wake of the breach: Equifax was caught steering consumers trying to find out if they were affected to a one-year “free” credit monitoring service that contained an arbitration clause forbidding class actions.

Following an uproar, Equifax amended its terms of service to remove the offending clause. On Monday, the company issued a statement affirming that enrollment in the free monitoring service it’s offering “does not waive any rights to take legal action.” The company also rectified another flaw by specifying that enrollees in the one-year free service won’t be automatically enrolled in the paid service after their free year expires.

Those steps do nothing to rectify the fundamental problems with the business model and lobbying interests of Equifax and its fellow credit monitoring giants, Experian and TransUnion.