Legislature ends session with the passage of three key consumer protection bills

As the legislature wrapped up their 2017-18 session, they passed three important consumer protection bills. All the bills now are awaiting a final signature of Governor Baker who has 10 days to sign them or they fail to become law. Bills include: Consumer Protection from Security Breaches, An Act to Protect Children, Families and Firefighters from Harmful Flame Retardants, and Providing Equitable Coverage in Disability Insurance.    

An Act Relative to Consumer Protection from Security Breaches, HB 4806,  will enable consumers to safeguard their personal financial information by allowing them to “freeze” and “thaw” their credit files for free -- preventing thieves from opening new credit accounts in their names, adding into to state statute a provision recently passed by Congress. The law also requires that credit bureaus and other companies give consumers free credit monitoring services after a data breach, and improves consumer notifications among other protections.  

Last month Marriott announced a security breach that put more than 500 million customers at risk of identity theft, and months before that Equifax, one of the three largest credit bureaus in the country, announced an especially dangerous breach. “While these new tools will help consumers protect themselves from identity theft, it is clear that big businesses have to do a much better job at safeguarding consumers’ personal information and must be held accountable for their failures,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MASSPIRG. “Identity thieves stole more than $17 billion dollars from American consumers last year – and that number is growing.”  

This bill is sponsored by Representative Jennifer Benson (Lunenburg) and Senator Barbara L’Italien (Andover) and House Chair of Consumer Protection, Representative Tacky Chan (Quincy).

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An Act to protect children, families and firefighters from harmful flame retardants, H5024 which bans 11 toxic flame retardants in children’s products, household furniture and bedding. 

Chemical fire retardants are common in consumer products including a variety of household items such as furniture, electronics, appliances and baby products. Scientists have found that exposure to toxic fire-retardant chemicals at critical points in development can damage the reproductive system and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory and behavior. Some are carcinogenic. If signed by Governor Baker, this law will ban the use of 11 toxic flame retardants in children’s products and upholstered furniture.

“The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is deeply grateful for the leadership of Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senator Creem, Representative Decker and minority leaders Tarr and Jones for their commitment to protecting our most vulnerable from this insidious hazard,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG and board member of the Alliance. “This is the kind of Christmas miracle we can all believe in.”

This bill is sponsored by Representative Marjorie Decker (Cambridge) and Senator Cynthia Creem (Newton)

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The Equitable Coverage in Disability Insurance, HB 482 requires that all disability insurance policies sold in Massachusetts be gender-neutral in all terms and conditions, including premiums and benefits. If signed the new law will end the current practice of charging women more than men for the same disability insurance policies, bringing private disability policies in line with most other insurance products in the state.

Today, companies selling health insurance, automobile insurance, homeowners’ insurance, workers compensation, annuity policies and even disability policies purchased through employers are prohibited from using gender in rate setting or underwriting criterion. “This is a change that is long overdue, said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director.”

This bill is sponsored by Representative Ruth Balser (Newton) and Senator Jason Lewis (Winchester)

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