AUGUSTA — A group that represents one of Maine’s largest voting blocs is decrying Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that was meant to provide no-cost protection against identity theft.

AARP Maine and the Maine Council on Aging, along with a group of financial advocates, said Monday that LePage’s veto of LD 382 “baffled” them.

The bill would have required credit reporting agencies to eliminate the fees they charge to freeze a person’s consumer credit report. The three credit agencies, which compile credit scores based on a consumer’s income and payment history, each charge a $10 fee to place or remove a freeze on a credit report.

Placing a freeze allows the consumer to decide who can and cannot access their credit history and scores. 

“Currently, only consumers who have been victims of identity theft can turn on the security freeze for free,” according to a news release issued by AARP Maine. “Particularly for Maine residents with low and fixed income, these fees are considered a major deterrent against utilizing one of the state’s strongest protections against identity theft.”

If lawmakers decide to override LePage’s veto, Maine would join only two other states requiring the fees to be waived.

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In his veto message, LePage wrote that the vast majority of states allow the fees.

“I do not believe it is appropriate for government to require a private enterprise to provide a service for no charge,” LePage wrote.

But AARP Maine President Rich Livingston said LePage’s veto was misguided.

“During a time of unparalleled identity theft and personal security breaches, we are truly baffled by the governor’s decision to veto this bipartisan legislation,” Livingston said in a prepared statement.

The bill received unanimous and bipartisan support in the Maine House and Senate. The Legislature’s  Insurance and Financial Services Committee recommended the bill pass into law. The measure was also supported by the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, the state attorney general, Maine Identity Services, the Maine Fraud Prevention Alliance, University Credit Union, New England Credit Consultants and Lincoln County TRIAD.

During public hearings on the bill, there was no opposition to the measure.

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Jane Carpenter, founder of Maine Identity Services and a member of the Maine Fraud Prevention Alliance, was an early supporter of the bill. In her testimony to the committee, Carpenter gave three key reasons for her support.

“First, Maine’s seniors who often struggle with very limited financial resources; second, Maine’s families, who are faced with increasing incidents of child identity theft; and third, Maine’s businesses and financial institutions, who also suffer losses incurred through a financial data breach,” Carpenter said.

In his statement Monday, Livingston urged all state lawmakers to maintain their bipartisan support of the bill and override LePage’s veto.

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