Most people think about their credit report when applying for a car loan, home loan or credit card – a creditor will usually request and review a person’s credit report when assessing an application for credit.
A credit report contains information about a person’s previous credit applications, their credit repayment history, late payments on credit contracts, relevant court judgments, and whether or not the person is or has been bankrupt.
In Victoria, credit reports are held by the credit reporting bodies Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Veda Advantage.
In Australia, credit reporting is regulated by:
•part IIIA Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (“PA 1988”);
•the Privacy Regulation 2013 (Cth) (“Privacy Regulation”);
•the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (Version 1.2) (“Privacy 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) came into effect to transition Australia to a comprehensive credit reporting regime. This regime aims to capture consumers’ entire credit repayment history on their credit files rather than only negative information (e.g. when they default). For more information about these reforms, see OAIC’s website (www.oaic.gov.au).
Only certain information is allowed to be included on your credit report; this includes:
•details of credit applications made to credit providers;
•information about current credit contracts (called “consumer credit liability information” (s 6(1) PA 1988));
•credit repayment history information;
•serious credit infringements (this includes fraudulently obtaining consumer credit, or fraudulently evading obligations under a consumer credit contract) (see s 6(1) PA 1988; s 12 Privacy Code);
•court judgments; and
The PA 1988 (s 20N) and the Privacy Code require that only permitted, accurate, up-to-date and complete information is included on a person’s credit report.
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).
Normally, only credit providers can report information to credit reporting bodies. “Credit provider” is defined (in s 6G PA 1988) to include:
•an organisation that provides credit, if providing credit is a substantial part of the business;
•a retailer that issues credit cards in connection with the sale of goods or services;
•a business that provides credit in relation to the supply of goods or services where the repayment of the amount of credit is deferred for at least seven days (e.g. utilities companies and telecommunication providers);
•a business that provides credit related to hiring, leasing or renting goods where the repayment of the amount of credit is deferred for at least seven days;
•an assignee of a credit provider.
Real estate agents, general insurance companies and employers are not credit providers (s 6H(5) PA 1988).
The above is not a complete list and there are complex exceptions. If a dispute arises about whether a particular entity can report information to a credit reporting body, refer directly to the PA 1988.
A default listing is a form of late payment. It can only be made if (s 6Q PA Act; s 9 Privacy Code):
•the payment is more than 60 days overdue;
•the overdue amount is greater than $150 (or if a higher amount, as prescribed by the Privacy Regulation);
•the credit provider has met the notice obligations, which include the provision of the following two notices:
1 a notice requesting payment (s 6Q PA 1988),
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.
Repayment history information is defined (in s 6V PA 1988; s 8 Privacy Code) as information about:
•whether or not an individual has met an obligation to make a monthly payment that is due and payable in relation to consumer credit;
•the day the monthly payment is due and payable;
•if a late payment is made, the day on which the individual makes that payment.
Importantly, repayment history information only includes consumer credit contracts covered by the National Credit Code (e.g. credit cards, personal loans and home loans) and not other types of credit (e.g. telecommunication and utilities accounts).
A person who believes their credit file includes inaccurate, out-of-date, incomplete, irrelevant or misleading information has the right to request that either the credit provider (s 21V PA 1988) or the credit reporting body (s 20T PA 1988) correct that information (see also s 20 Privacy Code). The credit provider or the credit reporting body must comply with this request within 30 days. If they need more time to comply with the request, they must notify the individual and seek a reasonable extension of time.
If the correction is not satisfactorily made, the person can make a complaint to 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 who participate in credit reporting must be a member of an EDR scheme that can receive and resolve complaints about them. The EDR schemes are the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investment Ombudsman (previously the Credit Ombudsman Service Limited), the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria, and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (see “Solving disputes with creditors” in Unauthorised transactions and ePayments Code).
If the individual believes there has been another breach of part IIIA of the PA 1988, or the Privacy 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 a longer period agreed to by the individual in writing.
Identity fraud and credit reporting
Where a person has been a victim of fraud (including identity fraud), they can request a credit reporting body to commence a “ban period” under section 20K of the PA 1988 (see also s 17 Privacy Code). During the ban period, the credit reporting body may not disclose or use the individual’s credit report unless the individual expressly consents in writing. The person can then request a correction to their credit report in accordance with the above process.
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 Privacy 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 Privacy Code), or if the purpose of requesting the credit report is to check that information on it has been corrected (s 20.7 Privacy Code). The credit reporting body is required to provide you with your credit report within 10 days of your request (s 19 Privacy Code).
To obtain a free copy of your credit report, you need to provide information to verify your identity to the particular credit reporting body.
To get a free copy of your credit report from Experian, submit the information detailed at www.experian.com.au/credit-services/credit-reports/order-credit-report.html by email (email@example.com) or download a PDF request form from that webpage.
To get a free copy of your credit report from Dunn & Bradstreet, complete their online form, or an application form can be downloaded from their website (http://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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get a free copy of your credit report from Veda Advantage, submit an online request form at www.mycreditfile.com.au. Enquiries can be made by phoning 1300 762 207.