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If you have ever applied for credit then you have a credit history or credit report.
A credit report has information about your credit history including information about any credit obligations you may have, any court judgments against you, whether you have defaulted on a loan, your repayment history and whether you are or have been bankrupt.
Credit providers, such as lenders or utility providers (phone, electricity, gas, water etc.), can access your credit report and use it to decide if they will give you a loan or provide a service.
If there is a credit default listed on your credit report, credit providers may choose not to provide you with credit or you may find that the cost of credit is more expensive for you because of your credit history. For example, if you have a bad credit history, you may be charged a higher interest rate on the basis that there is a higher risk that the loan will not be repaid.
There are a number of credit reporting agencies in Australia that collect your credit information. The major credit reporting agencies in Australia are Veda, Dun and Bradstreet, Experian and Tasmanian Collection Service (for Tasmanian residents only). You may have credit reports with more than one of these credit agencies.
Your credit report contains information used to identify you (eg name, date of birth and address) and information about your credit history.
Until 12 March 2014, Australia had a ‘negative credit reporting’ system. This meant that your credit report only contained ‘negative’ information about your credit history, such as whether you had defaulted on a loan, but it did not contain any information that shows that you have managed your credit obligations well. It was difficult to find out from your credit report whether you had any current credit obligations such as credit cards or loans. This made it difficult for credit providers to make responsible lending decisions.
From 12 March 2014, Australia introduced a ‘comprehensive credit reporting’ system. This means that your credit report will contain more information about how you have managed your credit obligations. The comprehensive credit reporting system gives credit providers a more accurate understanding of your ability to manage your credit obligations.
In the new comprehensive credit reporting system, your credit report may contain the following information:
your name, date of birth, gender, residential address history, employer history and driver’s licence number
any applications for credit, including information about the type and amount of credit
the dates accounts are opened and closed
credit limits (the amount of credit available to you under each credit account)
terms and conditions about repayment of credit
the name of your credit providers and the names of any credit providers who have requested copies of your credit report
current utility contracts you may have
information about whether you have applied for commercial credit
information about debts which you have guaranteed, including information about when the borrower for a loan you have guaranteed has defaulted on their payment obligations
default information (ie information about payments of more than $150 that are at least 60 days overdue and for which you have been served at least two notices requesting payment)
information about any overdue debts that have now been paid
court judgments made in relation to credit provided to you or credit you have applied for
information about debt agreements or insolvency agreements you have entered into and whether you are or have been bankrupt
repayment history information, such as whether a monthly repayment was made in full on the due date and if the debt was paid more than 14 days late (this information can only be supplied or accessed by licensed credit providers such as a banks or financial institutions, it cannot be supplied or accessed by telecommunications companies or utility providers)
information about any serious credit infringements, such as fraudulently attempting to obtain credit, fraudulently evading your credit obligations or if you have stopped making payments altogether and your credit provider has had no contact with you for 6 months or more despite taking reasonable steps to contact you.
Your credit report should not contain any information about your:
Credit reporting agencies are only able to keep your credit information for a certain period of time called a ‘retention period’. The credit reporting agency must destroy the information within 1 month after the retention period ends, unless there is a pending dispute.
How long a credit reporting agency may keep information on your credit report depends on what type of credit information it is.
Be aware that paying a debt that is listed on your credit report will only result in an update that the debt is now paid. It will not result in the listing being removed. A listing on your credit report will only be removed if it should not have been made in the first place or if the retention period has ended.
If there is a listing on your credit report that you don’t think should be there, you should get legal advice.
Your credit report can only be accessed by credit providers who you have applied for credit from, such as banks, finance companies, telecommunications or utility providers.
Some information on your credit report (eg repayment history information) can only be accessed by licensed credit providers such as banks and financial institutions. Telecommunications companies and utility providers are not licensed credit providers.
Other organisations such as insurance companies, real estate agents or your employer are not allowed to access your credit report at all.
If you think someone has wrongly accessed your credit report, you can make a complaint to your credit provider or the credit reporting agency.
If you are unhappy with the credit provider or credit reporting agency’s response to your complaint, you can make a complaint to the relevant ombudsman scheme (eg Financial Ombudsman, Credit Ombudsman Service, Energy and Water Ombudsman, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman). You should get legal advice first.
You can also make a complaint to the Office of the Australia Information Commissioner.
You are allowed to access your own credit report.
You are entitled to access your credit report for free once a year from any of the major credit reporting agencies. You can also get a free credit report if you have applied for credit and been refused in the past three months. The credit reporting agency must provide you with a copy of your credit report within 10 days of your request.
Some credit reporting agencies may charge you a fee for a more frequent or express service.
To request access to your free credit report, follow the links below to the request forms for each of the major credit reporting agencies:
The main credit reporting agency for consumers in Australia is Veda.
If you ask for a copy of your credit report your contact information will be updated on your credit report. This means that creditors and other people who have access to your credit report will have access to your current contact details.
You cannot request a copy of another person’s credit report.
A mistake on your credit report is any information in your credit report which is inaccurate, out of date, incomplete, irrelevant or misleading.
If you find a mistake on your credit report, you can request that the error is corrected. You can ask the credit provider or the credit reporting agency who informed you of the problem or who is responsible for the incorrect entry to correct the information. Credit providers and credit reporting agencies are required to correct any errors that you bring to their attention.
Credit providers will refer your request to the credit reporting agency to correct the information on your report. The credit reporting agency must respond within a reasonable period of time and if they are satisfied there is a mistake on the report, they must correct the information within 30 days of the request.
If the credit reporting agency decides not to correct the information, they must tell you that the correction has not been made and the reasons why the correction has not been made.
If you are unhappy with the credit provider’s or the credit reporting agency’s response to your request, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You should get legal advice about this process first.
Some companies known as ‘credit repair’ or ‘debt solution’ companies may claim to be able to ‘fix’ your credit report for you for a fee. These services are often very expensive and unnecessary. Some credit repair companies may try and get you to consolidate debts with a high interest loan or get you to enter into insolvency arrangements. This could end up costing you more money.
You do not need to pay a lawyer or a credit repair company to fix your credit report. If you need to amend or correct any information on your credit report, you can do this for free.
If you need help with the process of fixing your credit report, you can get assistance from Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre for free. A financial counselling service may also be able to help you.
If there is information about loans or credit applications on your credit report that you did not authorise, it could mean that someone has stolen your identity to take out loans in your name.
If you reasonably believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can make a request to a credit reporting agency not to use or disclose your credit reporting information.
The credit reporting agency will put a ban on the use or disclosure of your credit reporting information for 21 days from when the request is made. This is known as a ‘ban period’. You can request that this time be extended if necessary.
During the ban period, credit reporting agencies will not provide your credit report to any credit providers unless you have consented in writing.
If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, you will need to take immediate action. See Identity theft.
You may need legal advice if
Legal Aid Queensland’s Consumer Protection Unit may provide legal advice about issues concerning consumer credit and consumer credit reports.
The following organisations may also be able to help you.
Caxton Legal Centre Consumer Law Service provides free specialist legal advice to people with consumer and consumer credit legal problems, including loans, bankruptcy, debt collection, mortgage brokers and financial advisors.
Gladstone Community Advisory Service provides free legal advice about consumer matters.
Cairns Community Legal Centre - Consumer Law Service provides legal help in the areas of consumer credit matters, consumer product disputes, consumer service disputes, consumer debt matters, bankruptcy and other consumer law matters for socially and financially disadvantaged members of the community.
LawRight Refugee Civil Law Clinic provides free legal advice and assistance to refugees, humanitarian entrants, asylum seekers and temporary protection visa holders, including advice about debts, loan agreements and bankruptcy.
LawRight Mental Health Law Clinic provides legal advice on civil law issues arising as a result of a person's mental health problem, including credit/debt law issues.
Students Legal Service - University of Queensland provides free legal advice to students of UQ, including advice about consumer matters and responding to letters of demand.
Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.
National Legal Aid can refer you to Legal Aid in other states if your debt or court proceedings are in another state.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.
These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides information about privacy and deals with complaints about privacy breaches and misuse of personal information.
Veda is the main credit reporting agency in Australia. Veda can provide you with a free copy of your credit history.
Dun and Bradstreet is one of the major credit reporting agencies in Australia. Dun and Bradstreet can provide you with a free copy of your credit history.
Experian is one of the major credit reporting agencies in Australia. Experian can provide you with a free copy of your credit history.
Tasmanian Collection Service is a credit reporting agency for Tasmanian residents. Tasmanian Collection Service can provide you with a free copy of your credit history.
Financial Ombudsman Service provides independent dispute resolution for unresolved complaints about financial services providers and credit reporting agencies.
Credit Ombudsman Service (COSL) is an independent dispute resolution scheme that facilitates the resolution of complaints between consumers and financial services providers who are participants of the scheme. Participants of the scheme include non-bank lenders, finance brokers, credit unions, building societies, debt collection firms, financial planners, trustees, servers, aggregators, mortgage managers etc.
Financial counselling services can provide assistance with managing debt or resolving issues with your credit report.
Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) provides information about bankruptcy, including how to become bankrupt, making a person bankrupt, what debts are covered, consequences of bankruptcy and more.
CreditSmart provides information about Australia’s credit reporting system.
MoneySmart has information about Credit reports & credit repair.
CHOICE provides information about consumer protection and how to protect your credit rating.
Stay Smart Online has information about how to protect your personal and financial information online.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australian High Tech Crime Centre and Australian Bankers’ Association have created a website with information about how to Protect your financial identity.