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Credit reporting

Information about the information that is kept on a person's credit history.

What is a credit report?

A credit report has information about a person's credit repayment history, including:

  • previous applications that the person has made for credit
  • late payments
  • court judgments entered for outstanding debts, and
  • whether the person has been bankrupt.

This information is collected by private credit reporting agencies. Agencies get this information from credit providers who subscribe to their services. Veda Advantage is the largest of these agencies in Australia.

The conduct of these agencies is governed by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window) and the Credit Reporting code of conduct. These regulate the kind of information that can be kept about a person and how long that information can be kept.

Credit reporting agencies must allow someone to access their personal credit information free.

See Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window) and Officer of Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)—Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (version 1.2)(opens in a new window).

What a credit reporting agency can keep information about

The agency must not include personal information about a person’s individual credit information file unless it is reasonably necessary to be able to identify the person. Notably a credit reporting agency can include information about:

  • the provision of credit
  • requests for credit
  • court judgments made against an individual
  • ’serious credit infringements’, including that a person sought to ‘evade their obligations in relation to credit’
  • bankruptcy
  • defaults
  • last 2 previous addresses
  • applications made for credit within the last 5 years
  • drivers licence
  • employer’s name, and
  • driver licence number.

See ss. 6, 6N—Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

What will not be reported on

The following will not be reported:

  • the listing of bankruptcy and debt agreements on the bankruptcy registers, which is kept by the Insolvency and Trustee Service of Australia
  • the listing of defaulting tenants on tenancy databases
  • criminal record
  • political, social or religious beliefs of associations
  • sexual preferences, and
  • medical history or physical disabilities.

How long is information kept by the agency?

This depends on the kinds of matters that are reported. In most cases the information may be kept on the record for 5 years or 7 years for bankruptcy or serious credit infringements. The information must be deleted within one month of these time limits expiring.

See ss. 20V(2), 20W, 20X—Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

Getting a copy of the report

Individuals are able to get one free copy of their credit report every 12 months. They can also get a free copy within 90 days of being refused a credit application. If there are mistakes in the report the person can apply to have the mistakes corrected.

See:

Complaints about conduct of credit reporting agency

Credit reporting agencies have a responsibility to make sure that the information kept about a person is up-to-date and complete. This means that they cannot only list any payment defaults, they must keep a comprehensive record of repayment history.

Payment defaults are payments that are made more than 60 days after a payment is due and must not be less than $150. The credit provider must also have met all of their notice obligations for a default payment to be recorded.

See ss. 20N, 6Q, 21D(3)(d) —Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

The client can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in respect of the credit reporting agency’s conduct. Lodging a complaint with the commissioner is free, however clients will generally need to try to resolve the complaint with the reporting agency first. Contact the agency and allow 30 days for them to respond before making a complaint to the commissioner.

See Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)—What can I complain about?(opens in a new window)

More information

Legislation

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

  • s. 6—defines 'identification information'
  • s. 6N—meaning of credit information
  • s. 6Q—defines 'default information'
  • s. 20C—collection of solicited credit information
  • s. 20E—use and disclosure of credit reporting information
  • s. 20E—permitted disclosures
  • s. 20R—access to credit reporting information
  • s. 20V—destruction of credit reporting information after the retention period ends
  • s. 20W—retention period for credit information
  • s. 21B—open and transparent management of credit information
  • s. 21D—disclosure of credit information t a credit reporting body
  • s. 21T—access to credit eligibility information

See Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth)

  • Schedule 1 National Credit Code

See National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth)—Schedule 1—National Credit Code(opens in a new window).

References

Consumer Action Law Centre

This specialist community legal centre has information to help a person to get a copy of their credit report.

See Consumer Action Law Centre—Getting a copy of your credit report(opens in a new window).

Fitzroy law Handbook

Fitzroy Legal Service's law handbook as information about credit reporting.

See Are you in debt?(opens in a new window)

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)

This Australian government agency is responsible for freedom of information, privacy and information policy. A person can make a complaint about the way their personal information is handled.

See OAIC—What can I complain about?(opens in a new window)

See also OAIC—Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (version 1.2)(opens in a new window).

Updated