Credit reporting company Equifax Inc is close to a deal to pay around US$700 million to settle data breach probes with USA regulators and states, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
However, this figure is not set in stone and may change depending on whether or not additional consumer-focused claims are filed - and this will be made possible with the creation of a consumer claim fund, website, and hotline for victims.
The breach - one of the most severe in USA history - included sensitive information, such as Social Security and driver's license numbers and prompted swift condemnation from bipartisan lawmakers, agencies and consumers.
The agency relies on its authority to regulate unfair and deceptive trade practices to hold companies accountable for data-security representations.
The settlement requires the company to give $425 million to affected customers, pay $175 million in penalties to states and make security improvements.
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"Companies that profit from personal information have an extra responsibility to protect and secure that data", said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a statement. A December 2018 House Oversight Committee report called the breach "entirely preventable", saying Equifax didn't take action to prevent it and wasn't prepared for the aftermath. "Equifax failed to take basic steps that may have prevented the breach that affected approximately 147 million consumers".
The breach was one of the largest ever to threaten the private information. Consumers can get settlement information, check their eligibility to file a claim and file a claim by phone or online.
This permitted a hacker to access the credit monitoring company's systems, leading to the theft of records belonging to over 146 million users.
The data breach prompted the resignation of CEO Richard Smith and investigations by federal regulators, multiple states attorneys general and the company faces a number of civil lawsuits.