Montreal

Desjardins to offer all members free, lifelong protection after data breach

Desjardins Group president Guy Cormier says the credit union will offer free, permanent data protection to all its members in the wake of last month's data breach.

Company president says it's important to come up with permanent solution

Guy Cormier, chief executive of Desjardins Group, was himself affected by the data breach that compromised data of 2.7 million people. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Desjardins Group president Guy Cormier said Monday morning the credit union federation will offer free, permanent data protection to all its members in the wake of last month's data breach.

The protection will be rolled out for all clients, not just the roughly 2.7 million people and 173,000 businesses affected by the data breach.

Cormier said, effective immediately, all Desjardins credit union clients, including business customers, will have access to data protection for life and in-house services to help address identity theft. Desjardins has credit union branches in Quebec and Ontario.

The protection will not be provided to investment and insurance customers.

Cormier said clients who are victims of identity theft in the future will have free access to lawyers specializing in identity theft and will be compensated for losses.

Cormier said it won't just be a matter of directing clients to services; they'll be accompanied during every step of the process, from filing a police report to contacting federal government agencies.

The protection plan includes up to $50,000 for clients who experience identity theft, including loss of salary or fees associated with filing legal documents.

Desjardins had already announced it was offering everyone affected — about 40 per cent of Desjardins customers — five years of free credit monitoring with Equifax.

Registering for that service has proved difficult. Cormier said only 360,000 affected members — or 13 per cent — were signed up as of Monday morning.

Few sign up

The Equifax website has frequently crashed due to the demand, and some customers reaching the company by phone have waited for hours on hold. Customers have also reported having trouble getting service in French.

Cormier said that they expected only a small portion of customers would actually complete the process of signing up with Equifax, leaving the majority of clients unprotected.

That's why the group decided to bring in sweeping protections for everyone.

Cormier, who also was affected by the data breach, said the goal is to reassure all Desjardins members.

"People with money invested at Desjardins should be able to sleep easily," he said.

He said the credit union's commitment to offer protection for businesses was "a first in Canada."

Unlike with Equifax, Desjardins customers won't have to sign up for this service. Every member is covered automatically, Cormier said.

Clients eligible for five years of coverage with Equifax can and should continue to sign up for that service, Cormier said. 

An emergency meeting of the House of Commons public safety and national security committee that is happening later Monday will look into whether issuing new social insurance numbers to affected people would be feasible, and examine ways to prevent future data breaches.

With files from Steve Rukavina

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