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Credit reporting

Please note:
For a period of 12 months starting 1 July 2019, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s (AFCA) jurisdiction will be expanded to allow them to consider previously unheard disputes falling within its terms of reference relating to conduct dating back to 1 January 2008.

If you've ever applied for credit, then you'll have a credit history or credit report.

A credit report has information about your credit history including:

  • your credit obligations (eg loans, credit cards)
  •  any court judgments against you
  • whether you've defaulted on a loan
  • your repayment history
  • whether you are, or have been bankrupt.

Only certain people can access your report, including credit providers who you've applied for credit from, such as banks, finance companies, telecommunications companies or utility providers. If you think someone has wrongly accessed your credit report you can make a complaint.

You can get a copy of your credit report for free once a year from any of the major credit reporting agencies. Contact the relevant provider for more information.

What is my credit report?

A credit report has information about your credit history including:

  • your credit obligations
  • any court judgments against you
  • whether you've defaulted on a loan
  • your repayment history
  • 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's a credit default listed on your credit report, credit providers may choose not to provide you with credit or you may find 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 there is a higher risk the loan will not be repaid.

There is a number of credit reporting agencies in Australia that collect your credit information. The major credit reporting agencies in Australia are:

You may have credit reports with more than one of these credit agencies.

What information is in my credit report?

Your credit report contains information used to identify you (eg name, date of birth and address) and information about your credit history.

Negative credit reporting system

Until 12 March 2014, Australia had a ‘negative credit reporting’ system, meaning your credit report only contained ‘negative’ information about your credit history (such as whether you had defaulted on a loan), but it didn't have any information showing when you've managed your credit obligations well. It was also difficult to find out from your credit report whether you had any current credit obligations such as credit cards or loans, making it difficult for credit providers to make responsible lending decisions.

Comprehensive credit reporting system

From 12 March 2014, Australia introduced a ‘comprehensive credit reporting’ system, meaning  your credit report contains 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.

Under this new system your credit report may contain the following details:

  • 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
  • opening and closing dates of any accounts
  • 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
  • information about whether you've applied for commercial credit
  • information about debts you've guaranteed, including information about when the borrower for a loan you've guaranteed has defaulted on their payment obligations
  • credit 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 2 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
  • payment history information, such as whether a monthly payment 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 can't 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 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 shouldn't contain any information about your:

  • religious or philosophical beliefs
  • health information
  • genetic information
  • racial or ethnic origins
  • political opinions
  • sexual orientation
  • membership of professional associations or trade unions
  • criminal record
  • credit account balances.

Credit report retention periods

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's a pending dispute.

The length of time a credit reporting agency may keep information on your credit report depends on the type of information. For example:

  • payment history information will be removed after 2 years
  • a default will be removed after 5 years
  • a serious infringement will be removed after 7 years
  • a notice of court judgment (money order) will be removed after 5 years
  • information about bankruptcy will be removed after 5 years (or 2 years from discharge of bankruptcy, whichever is later)
  • information about debt agreements will be removed after 5 years.

Note: Paying a debt listed on your credit report will only result in your report being updated to show the debt is now paid—the listing won't be removed.

A listing on your credit report will only be removed if it's been incorrectly added, or if the retention period has ended. Get legal advice if you think you have an incorrect listing on your credit report.

Who can access my credit report?

Your credit report can only be accessed by credit providers you've applied for credit from, such as banks, finance companies, telecommunications companies or utility providers.

Some information on your credit report (eg payment 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.

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—for example:

You should get legal advice before lodging a complaint.

If you can’t resolve your dispute, you can also make a complaint to the Office of the Australia Information Commissioner.

You can access your own credit report. 

Accessing your credit report

You're 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've applied for credit and been refused in the past 3 months. The credit reporting agency must give you a copy of your credit report within 10 days of your request.

Fees may apply from some credit reporting agencies for more frequent reports or express services.

The major credit reporting agencies in Australia are:

If you ask for a copy of your credit report your contact information will be updated on your report. This means creditors and other people who have access to your credit report will have access to your current contact details.

You can't request a copy of another person’s credit report.

Mistakes on my credit report

A mistake on your credit report is any information that is inaccurate, out of date, incomplete, irrelevant or misleading.

If you find a mistake on your credit report, you should contact the credit provider or the credit reporting agency that informed you of the problem or who is responsible for the incorrect entry, and get them to correct this information. Credit providers and credit reporting agencies must correct any errors 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're satisfied there's 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 the reasons why the correction hasn't been made.

If you are unhappy with the response of the credit provider or the credit reporting agency, you can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. Get legal advice before making a complaint.

Paying someone to fix your credit report

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 don't need to pay a lawyer or a credit repair company to fix your credit report. If you need to change or correct any information on your credit report, you can do this for free.

We may be able to help you fix your credit report. Contact us or a community legal centre in your area.

A financial counselling service may also be able to help you.

Identity theft

If there's unauthorised information about loans or credit applications on your credit report it could mean 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 this time be extended if needed.

During the ban period, credit reporting agencies won't give your credit report to any credit providers unless you have consented in writing.

If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, take immediate action.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • there's an incorrect listing on your credit report
  • there's a mistake on your credit report
  • you want to make a complaint about your credit provider or credit reporting agency
  • you think you have been the victim of identity theft.

Get legal advice

Our Consumer Protection Unit may give general legal advice about consumer credit issues and consumer credit reports.

The following organisations may also be able to help.

Caxton Legal Centre Consumer Law Service gives 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 gives free legal advice about consumer matters.

Cairns Community Legal Centre - Consumer Law Service gives 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 Mental Health Law Clinic gives legal advice on civil law issues arising as a result of a person's mental health problem, including credit and debt law issues.

Students Legal Service - University of Queensland gives free legal advice to University of Queensland students 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 find out if they can help.

National Legal Aid can refer you to Legal Aid commissions if your debt or court proceedings are in another state.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don't give legal advice.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has information about privacy and deals with complaints about privacy breaches and misuse of personal information.

The following Australian credit reporting agencies can give you a free copy of your credit history:

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority provides an independent dispute resolution for unresolved complaints about financial services providers and credit reporting agencies.

Financial counselling services can help with managing debt or resolving issues with your credit report.

Australian Financial Security Authority has information about bankruptcy, including how to become bankrupt, making a person bankrupt, what debts are covered, consequences of bankruptcy and more.

CreditSmart has information about Australia’s credit reporting system.

MoneySmart has information about credit reports and credit repair.

CHOICE has 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.

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