Are you in strife with credit or think you might have bad credit? Or do you just want to check what’s being said about your credit habits? With Australia’s new credit reporting regime now in place, it’s really important to regularly check your credit file to make sure it is accurate and up to date. We explain the important things you need to know about getting your credit report and the different ways you can access your credit file information in Australia.
By Graham Doessel, Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers www.mycralawyers.com.au.
You can access your credit report for free.
Most people are unaware you don’t have to pay to see what is on your credit file. Under Australia’s credit reporting laws, you can access your credit report for free from all of Australia’s credit reporting agencies annually. This allows you to keep an eye on your credit information and make sure it is accurate. You can and should make a request with each agency for your credit report – as there might be different information listed with different agencies. This copy is sent within 10 working days.
Equifax (Formerly Veda Advantage) is the primary credit reporting bureau in Australia (holding approximately 16.5 million credit files), as well as Dun & Bradstreet, Tasmanian Collection Services (if in Tasmania) and new entrant Experian.
If you need it urgently you can pay for your credit report.
Most credit reporting agencies also offer a faster service (usually within 24 hours) for a fee.
You can also check your credit ‘score.’
[At the time of writing] Only one credit reporting bureau, Veda Advantage (Now Equifax) had provided their credit score to the general public. The VedaScore can be obtained for a fee, and can be handy to obtain, especially if you intend to apply for major credit such as a home loan soon. Veda explains their score:
Your VedaScore is calculated based on the information held in your credit file at a given point in time. Your VedaScore is dynamic and predicts the likelihood of an adverse event, like a default, being recorded on a credit file within the next 12 months. Your VedaScore shows where you sit in relation to other credit-active Australians in our credit-reporting database. This may be used by lenders as part of the credit assessment process; however, lenders will also use their own criteria and policies when assessing your application not only your VedaScore.
Once you have your credit report, you need to check your personal details.
If you obtain a copy of your credit report, the first thing you should do is run over your basic personal information to make sure it is correct and to make sure the information is yours. If it isn’t, you should take steps immediately to rectify this. Possible explanations for conflicting personal information could be:
- the wrong person is attached to your credit file name or
- you may be a victim of identity theft.
Contact the relevant credit reporting bureau who can help you get to the bottom of it.
You can then look at your Summary Characteristics or summary of information.
This will tell you at a glance the items of note on your credit report such as any adverse listings.
Importantly, check for cross-references.
This is another point where you may have cause to find people other than yourself attached to your credit file. This can happen if someone with a similar or the same name resides in your area or uses the same Credit Provider as you. Any issues with cross-references can be fixed through notifying the Credit Reporting Bureau.
Your credit history goes into detail about your credit habits.
Items of note which could be impact your ability to obtain credit could include adverse lisitngs such as defaults, Court Writs and Judgments, bankruptcies and debt agreements, late payments. It could also include excess credit enquiries, and excess credit accounts or amounts, just to name a few.
How your credit history can impact you.
All adverse listings could lower any credit score calculated. In this current economic climate even too many credit applications are often considered to be ‘black marks’ on the individual’s credit file in addition to defaults, clearouts, Court Writs and Judgments.
The impact of late payment notations on the credit score or on assessment of credit suitability is still unknown since the information is only newly available to lenders. Speculation has centred around just how many late payment notations will be too many to mean (a) credit is refused or (b) a higher interest rate is offered. Most times the loan options available to you are at significantly higher interest rates in order to cover the risks associated with taking on someone with bad credit.
What if my credit report is wrong?
If there’s anything on your credit report you disagree with, you can contact the credit reporting bureau to fix it. If it’s something significant like an adverse which you believe is inconsistent, unfair, or incorrect it should be disputed. Credit rating errors could be anything from the credit listing placed by the Credit Provider on the wrong credit file; to the basis of the credit listing being unfounded; to incorrect notices being provided to the individual; right through to system errors and incorrect spelling, to name a few examples.
You can attempt to fix it yourself.
This involves dealing directly with Credit Providers in your dispute. The process of dispute is not always easy, particularly if you are time poor, or do not have the necessary skills or knowledge of the relevant legislation pertaining to your case. This doesn’t mean you can’t fix your unfair credit listing without knowing it, but it makes a massive difference to the chances of removal to have this knowledge (or to employ someone who does).
Some people have in the past made a verbal dispute with their Credit Provider about their listing only to be told it can’t be removed, but can be marked as paid if it has been paid. This can deter individuals from pursuing their case of dispute. Put simply, a Credit Provider should remove a credit listing if it has been demonstrated that the listing was placed unlawfully on the credit file. It is in the demonstration that many people fall short.
If your Credit Provider refuses to remove the credit listing, then you can take your case to the relevant industry Ombudsman. This can be helpful in many cases, but in some cases it may not be in your best interests to pursue this course. It is important to note that the Ombudsman acts impartially and is not advocating for you. This means there may be areas where they can’t or won’t investigate.
You can get help to dispute your credit listing.
You can seek out external help from a third party such as a lawyer focused on credit law. A credit reporting lawyer can act in court processes; identify legal issues; provide legal advice; prepare binding agreements; conduct formal negotiations and follow through with enforcement where necessary. A credit reporting lawyer can also make formal recommendations to Credit Providers making reference to the law, and make representations on behalf of clients.
You can also seek help from a credit repair company. A word of warning though, it is important to do your homework to avoid getting ripped off. There are some ‘dodgy’ players out there who may seem cheap, but who in the end could cost you and your dispute case dearly. Consumers can consult the Credit Repair Industry Association of Australasia at www.criaa.org.au for advice on choosing a credit repairer.
Be careful about cheap and nasty credit repair. If you can’t afford to employ a demonstrated reputable and ethical advocate, consider disputing your own case instead.
Need help to check your credit report?
MyCRA Lawyers can help you check and analyse your credit rating and help assess your credit worthiness.
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