OLYMPIA – The Senate today approved a bill to eliminate the fees that credit bureaus charge customers who want to freeze their credit reports to protect their personal information.

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, sponsored Senate Bill 6018 in response to the major Equifax database hack last summer that exposed the private information of more than 143 million Americans.

“Consumers whose sensitive financial data has been exposed through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to pay to protect their credit ratings,” Mullet said. “I’m pleased that we’re taking real steps to help people protect themselves and their personal information by removing undue financial penalties.”

Following the Equifax hack, consumer watchdogs recommended that customers request credit freezes from credit reporting agencies to ensure that the stolen information could not be exploited. A freeze blocks access to a credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts using stolen data.

Credit reporting agencies charge Washington residents $10 to temporarily freeze their credit reports. But a consumer who needs to unfreeze the account to generate the credit report necessary to buy a car, take out a mortgage or open a bank account must pay the fee again to each agency, meaning that those who freeze and unfreeze reports with all three major agencies actually face some $60 in fees.

Mullet said that he would now urge the House of Representatives to pass the bill in a timely fashion to speed up the timeline of giving consumers relief from credit freeze fees.