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Privacy fact sheet 26: Credit reporting series contents and overview

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Updated October 2016

Credit reporting ‘know your rights’ series no. 1

This fact sheet is the first in a series that outlines what you need to know about how your personal information can be handled in the Australian consumer credit reporting system. It provides a series contents list, and some general information about consumer credit reporting in Australia. There are lots of technical terms used in the credit reporting system and we refer to some of those terms in this series. You can find more information about these terms in no. 2 (Privacy fact sheet 27) of this series.

The credit reporting ‘know your rights’ fact sheet series at a glance

9. Repayment history information
When can information about your repayment history be included in your credit report (Privacy fact sheet 34)

10. Default information
When a default can be included in your credit report (Privacy fact sheet 35)

11. Retention
How long information can be kept in your credit report before it must be deleted (Privacy fact sheet 36)

12. Fraud
What steps you can take if you think that you may have been the victim of fraud (Privacy fact sheet 37)

13. Hardship assistance
Financial hardship and your credit report (Privacy fact sheet 38)

14. Direct Marketing
Whether your credit report can be used to direct market goods and services to you (Privacy fact sheet 39)

15. The Australian Privacy Principles (APPs)
When the APPs will also apply to the handling of your credit report (Privacy fact sheet 40)

What is the purpose of credit reporting?

The purpose of the consumer credit reporting system is to balance protecting your personal information with the need for credit providers to have enough information to help them decide whether or not to give you credit, such as a bank loan. To achieve this, the credit reporting laws set out the specific types of personal information that can be included in your consumer credit report.

Who is responsible for credit reporting?

The main participants in the consumer credit reporting system in Australia are credit providers (including banks, utility companies and certain retailers that allow you to defer payment for goods and services) and credit reporting bodies (CRBs).

CRBs collect your personal information from credit providers and other sources for the purpose of including that information in your consumer credit report. Each CRB may collect different information about you. This means that you may have a different consumer credit report with each CRB. There are three main CRBs in Australia; Veda, D&B and Experian.

What laws regulate credit reporting?

The laws regulating consumer credit reporting are contained in Part IIIA of the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act), the Privacy Regulations 2013 (the Regulations) and a code of practice about credit reporting, called the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (CR code).

In some circumstances the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) contained in the Privacy Act will also apply.

For more information see no. 15 in this series (Privacy fact sheet 40).

What information is in your credit report?

The credit reporting laws limit the types of personal information that can be included in your consumer credit report. Those types of information include:

  • personal information necessary to identify you
  • information about your current credit providers and credit accounts, including the type of account and the limits on those accounts
  • information about any credit applications that you have made
  • information about court judgements made against you that relate to credit provided to, or applied for by, you or any bankruptcies, and
  • information about your repayment history and whether you have defaulted on any payments.

For more information see no.3 in this series (Privacy fact sheet 28).

What is a credit score?

CRBs use the personal information contained in your consumer credit report to create your credit score. A credit score is a number that indicates the CRB’s assessment of your level of consumer creditworthiness (including your eligibility to be provided with credit). This is then used by credit providers, such as banks, to help them decide whether to give you credit.

Importantly, a CRB must not use personal information that is not permitted to be included in your consumer credit report to produce a credit score.

A credit provider may also create its own credit score about you, using information in your consumer credit report and other personal information it holds. However, a credit provider cannot give this score to a CRB.

For more information see no.5 in this series (Privacy fact sheet 30).

What is your repayment history and is this different to a default?

Your consumer credit report can include information about whether you have paid your consumer credit payments on time, or whether you have missed a payment. This is called repayment history information. Your credit report will show that you have missed a consumer credit payment if you make the payment more than 14 days after the day it was due to be paid.

Information about your repayment history is different to a ‘default’. A default is information about a payment of $150 or more that has been overdue for at least 60 days. A credit provider must give you specific notices before information about a default can be included in your consumer credit report.

For more information see no.9 (Privacy fact sheet 34) & no. 10 (Privacy fact sheet 35) in this series.

How long will personal information stay on your credit report?

Personal information about your consumer credit activities can only be included in your credit report for between 2 and 7 years, depending on the type of information.

For more information see no. 11 (Privacy fact sheet 36) in this series.

Who can access your credit report?

The credit reporting laws place restrictions on who can access your consumer credit report. Usually, access is sought by a credit provider when you make an application for credit.

A credit provider can use the personal information in your consumer credit report to help it decide whether to provide you with credit. A credit provider can also access your consumer credit report to help it collect any payments that you are overdue in making, or to help you avoid defaulting on your payment obligations.

Importantly, your landlord (or prospective landlord), real-estate agent, employer (or prospective employer) and general insurer are not permitted to access your consumer credit report.

For more information see no.4 (Privacy fact sheet 29) & no. 5 (Privacy fact sheet 30) in this series.

How can you access your credit report?

You can find out what personal information is held in your consumer credit report by making a request to a CRB. Different CRBs may collect different information about you. For this reason, it is a good idea to make a request to each of the three main CRBs listed above. You can make a request via the CRB’s website or by contacting the CRB directly.

A CRB must give you access to your consumer credit report, including your credit score, for free once every 12months and, again, in certain other circumstances (including, if you have been refused credit).

When a CRB gives you a copy of your consumer credit report, the CRB will also give you information that will help you understand the impact that your report has on your ability to access credit.

A CRB must give you access within 10 days of your request.

For more information see no. 6 (Privacy fact sheet 31) in this series.

How do you correct your credit report?

If you are concerned that the personal information included in your consumer credit report is incorrect, you can approach any CRB or credit provider and request to have the information corrected for free.

A CRB or credit provider will usually make a decision about your correction request within 30 days of you making the request. After making the decision, the body or provider then has 5 days to notify you about the outcome.

For more information see no. 7 (Privacy fact sheet 32) in this series.

How can you complain?

You can make a complaint if you believe a CRB or credit provider (or someone else that has been given your credit report by a CRB or credit provider) has mishandled your consumer credit report.

You should first complain to the relevant CRB or credit provider. A CRB or credit provider is not permitted to charge you for making a complaint and the body or provider must make a decision about your complaint within 30 days of receiving your complaint.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can complain to an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme of which the CRB or credit provider is a member. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, or if you would prefer to complain directly to the regulator, you can complain to the OAIC.

For more information see no. 8 (Privacy fact sheet 33) in this series.

What if you are concerned that you have been a victim of fraud?

You can make a request to a CRB not to use or disclose the information contained in your consumer credit report. In response to your request, the CRB will implement a ban period. During the ban period, the CRB will not use or disclose your consumer credit report or add new information to that report.

Because you may have a credit report with more than one CRB, it is a good idea to make this request to each of the three main CRBs listed above.

For more information see no. 12 (Privacy fact sheet 37) in this series.

Will your hardship request appear on your credit report?

If you make an application to a credit provider for hardship assistance, the provider cannot disclose the fact that you have made a hardship application to a CRB for inclusion in your consumer credit report.

For more information see no. 13 (Privacy fact sheet 38) in this series.

Additional external resource

The Australian Retail Credit Association’s CreditSmart website: www.creditsmart.org.au

For further information

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001 | P 1300 363 992 | Eenquiries@oaic.gov.au
Or visit our website www.oaic.gov.au
The information provided in this resource is of a general nature. It is not a substitute for legal advice.