CHICAGO (CBS) — The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the credit reporting company Equifax over a data breach that exposed personal information of about 143 million people, including more than 5 million in Illinois.
Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins calls Equifax irresponsible and reckless for allowing personal information to be shared, leading to all kinds of problems for an estimated 5.4 million people in Illinois.
“Your credit score can be destroyed. Your ability to get a mortgage, buy a car, use a credit card,” Hopkins said. “All the things that we take for granted.”
City of Chicago Corporation Council Ed Siskel said the city’s consumer fraud ordinance was updated in 2012 to allow for penalties, that in this case, could go as high as $10,000 dollars per victim per day.
“Penalties of up to $10,000 for each individual resident of the city of Chicago whose data was compromised for each day that that violation occurred,” Siskel said.
He said for some consumers that started as early as March and Equifax still hasn’t notified individual consumers that their data has been compromised.
The fines amount to $10 billion a day multiplied by months, and if the city wins or settles the suit?
“The fines will go to the city,” said Attorney Jay Edelson.
But Chicagoans, according to Class Action Attorney Jay Edelson would also benefit…
“What I expect is Chicagoans will get something different and something better,” he said.
Here’s why – the lawsuit seeks restitution for Chicagoans who pay to protect their identities and suffer an emotional toll because of the breach. Plus they’ll also qualify for any class action settlement.
“So if the city does this correctly, the Chicagoans will be able to recover twice,” Edelson said.
Mayor Emanuel said the company added insult to injury by marketing what he calls a ‘fraudulent product’ for identity theft protection that would prevent consumers from later suing the company and would begin to charge them a fee after the first year.
The mayor said the city ordinance is stronger than the laws that San Francisco and Massachusetts sued under.
An Equifax spokesperson tells WBBM, “We cannot comment on pending litigation, but want to reassure consumers that we are remaining focused on helping them to navigate this situation and providing the best customer support possible. We are listening to issues consumers have experienced and their suggestions, which are helping to further inform our actions as we continue to improve this process.”
The Chicago lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses Equifax of violating Chicago’s consumer fraud ordinance and state laws regarding information privacy, consumer fraud and deceptive practices. The lawsuit says the company waited months to inform people who were affected, then misled consumers by initially offering “complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring” that required a waiver from future legal action.
(CBS Chicago and The Associated Press contributed to this copy. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)