Before a creditor provides credit to a consumer, it is usual for the creditor to request and review the consumer’s credit report. A credit report contains information about, among other things, a person’s previous credit applications, their credit repayment history, late payments on credit contracts, court judgments entered, and whether or not the person is or has been bankrupt. Credit reports are held by private companies called “credit reporting bodies”. Two main credit reporting bodies are Veda Advantage and Dun & Bradstreet.
Credit reporting is regulated by Part IIIA of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (“PA 1988”), the Privacy Regulations 2013, and the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (“Code”), a legally binding code issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (“OAIC”).
On 12 March 2014, the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 (Cth) entered into effect so as to transition Australia to a “comprehensive credit reporting” regime. This aims to capture consumers’ entire credit repayment history on their credit files rather than simply when they default, as had previously been the case. For more information regarding these reforms see the OAIC website (www.oaic.gov.au).
Permitted contents of credit files
The PA 1988 and the Code require that only permitted and “accurate, up-to-date and complete” information is included on a person’s credit file (s 20N PA 1988). It is an offence for a credit reporting body to use or disclose credit reporting information that is “false or misleading in a material particular” (s 20P PA 1998).
The information now permitted on a credit file includes:
•details of credit applications made to credit providers;
•information regarding current credit contracts (“consumer credit liability information” (s 6(1) PA 1988);
•credit “repayment history information”;
•serious credit infringements (which includes fraudulently obtaining consumer credit, or fraudulently evading obligations under a consumer credit contract) (see s 6(1) PA 1988; s 12 Code);
•court judgments; and
Repayment history information is defined (in s 6V PA 1988, s 8 Code) as information about:
a whether or not an individual has met an obligation to make a monthly payment that is due and payable in relation to consumer credit;
b the day the monthly payment is due and payable;
c if a late payment is made, the day on which the individual makes that payment.
A default listing can only be made if (s 6Q PA Act; s 9 Code):
•the payment is more than 60 days overdue;
•the overdue amount must be greater than $150 (or if a higher amount as prescribed by the Regulation);
•the credit provider has met the notice obligations, which are complex and include the provision of the following two notices:
1 a notice requesting payment (s 6Q PA 1988); and
2 a notice of intention to disclose the default (s 21D(3)(d) PA 1988),
and the provider is not prevented by a statute of limitations from recovering the overdue payment
Identity fraud, corrections and complaints
Where an individual has been a victim of fraud (including identity fraud), they may make a request to a credit reporting body under section 20K of the PA 1988 (see also s 17 Code) to commence a “ban period” during which the credit reporting body may not disclose or use the individual’s credit reporting information unless the individual expressly consents in writing.
A person who believes their credit file includes incorrect information has the right to request that either the credit provider (s 21V PA 1988) or credit reporting body (s 20T) correct that information (see also s 20 Code). The credit provider or the credit reporting body must comply with this request within 30 days. If they require an extension of time to comply with the request, they must notify the individual involved and seek a reasonable extension of time.
If the correction is not satisfactorily made the individual may raise a dispute with the credit provider’s free external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme, or with the OAIC (for more information, see Privacy and your rights). All credit providers must be a member of one of two EDR schemes, which can receive and resolve complaints about them: either the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), or the Credit and Investment Ombudsman (CIO) (previously the Credit Ombudsman Service Limited). Veda Advantage is a member of FOS (see “Credit dispute resolution” in Unauthorised transactions and epayments code).
If the individual believes there has been another breach of part IIIA of the PA 1988, or the Code, they are entitled to make a complaint to the credit provider or the credit reporting body. Where such a complaint is made, division 5 of part IIIA, and section 21 of the Code require that the complaint must be acknowledged within seven days, investigated and where necessary consultation with other credit providers or credit reporting bodies must occur. A decision must be made in relation to the complaint within 30 days or longer period agreed to by the individual in writing.
Getting a copy of your credit report
You have the right to obtain one free copy of your credit report from any credit reporting body every 12 months (s 20R PA 1988; s 19 Code). In addition, you can obtain one free copy of your credit report within 90 days of being refused a credit application (s 19.2 Code), or if the purpose of requesting the credit report is to check that information on it has been corrected (s 20.7 Code). The credit reporting body is required to provide you with your credit report within 10 days of the request (s 19 Code).
To obtain a free copy from Veda Advantage, you should provide:
•your full name;
•your date of birth;
•your driver’s licence number;
•two forms of identification (e.g. a bill and a passport or driver’s licence);
•your current residential address;
•your previous addresses;
•your current employer or a previous employer;
•name of the organisation to which you last applied for credit;
•a daytime telephone number;
•your signature; and
•details of how you would like your file sent to you (by post, fax or email).
You can provide this information by fax on (02) 9278 7333 or by mail to Veda Advantage Public Access, PO Box 964, North Sydney NSW 2059. A request form can also be completed and submitted online at www.mycreditfile.com.au. Enquiries can be made by phoning 1300 762 207.
A similar process applies when obtaining a report from Dunn & Bradstreet. You can check your credit report by completing an online form, or an application form can be downloaded from the company website (www.dnb.com.au) and mailed to D & B Consumer Credit, Public Access Centre, PO Box 7405 St Kilda Road, Melbourne Vic 3004. Further information can be obtained by phoning 1300 734 806 or emailing email@example.com.