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John Kavanagh
Associate Editor
Published on: 5 Feb 2021

Credit reporting agencies are scrambling to meet a tight deadline for providing consumers with improved access to their credit reports, following the passage of amendments to credit reporting legislation this week.

The National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment Act (Mandatory Credit Reporting and Other Measures) Act includes a provision allowing consumers to access their credit reporting information held by a credit reporting body free of charge every three months.

Under the old rule a consumer could get their credit report free of charge every 12 months. The change takes effect from the date of royal assent.

The chief executive of the Australian Retail Credit Association Mike Laing said the industry supports the change but was not aware of the timeline until amendments were agreed to in the Senate this week.

Laing said: “There is a lot of technical work that credit reporting bodies need to do to make this change. The timeframe is unreasonable. We will be following this up with the government to see if it can be pushed out.”

As well as providing more frequent access to free reports, the new law requires credit reporting bodies to provide the consumer’s credit score and a credit score scale in the credit report.
The other big item in the new law is the inclusion of financial hardship in the reporting framework, which will begin in July next year.

Disclosure of financial hardship information will be unrestricted in situations where a consumer is seeking to access new credit.

Its availability will be more limited in other situations, such as where a credit provider is seeking to collect payments that are overdue, a mortgage insurer is doing a risk assessment or to a credit provider assessing a loan guarantor.

The inclusion of financial hardship information in credit reports has been a grey area ever since comprehensive credit reporting was introduced in 2013 and has been the subject of a long-running debate between the industry and consumer groups.

Laing said the industry did not get everything it was looking for but was happy that there was now a way forward.

The new law also includes a provision that large authorised deposit-taking institutions must supply credit information to credit reporting bodies.

This part of the law dates back to a period when the big banks were slow to participate in the comprehensive regime and is now redundant. Laing said the 15 biggest ADIs are participating in the system and ARCA’s estimate is that 95 of consumer credit accounts are being reported on a comprehensive basis.

He said there was a long tail of small credit providers that are slowly joining the system and ARCA has started having talks with buy now pay later providers about joining in.

Digital Agency: SGY