Is positive credit reporting a flawed deal?

by Miklos Bolza20 Oct 2017
The move towards more comprehensive credit reporting may be beneficial on the surface, but one legal expert has warned that it will have negative impacts on consumers and won't solve a root issue in the reporting process. 

While regulators and credit providers have been singing the praises of this expanded credit reporting regime, it won't improve the number of inaccuracies in the data collected by credit reporting agencies, Joseph Trimarchi, solicitor at Joseph Trimarchi & Associates told Australian Broker.

“It’s not their fault,” he noted. “They are the custodians of the systems and the information they collect is the information fed to them by credit providers.”

What is lacking is a more precise method of recording this information, he said.

“What we find is that the level of inaccuracies that exist on credit files hasn’t diminished. Those mistakes are still there.”

This is a systematic issue caused by the way credit reporting has been structured since its inception in Australia. While the Privacy Act legislates credit reporting, it does not have an enforcement arm to ensure information is correct, Trimarchi said.

Around 70-80% of lenders are accurate in their listings, he added, with the remainder causing issues for consumers. These inaccuracies existed prior to comprehensive credit reporting and will exist afterwards, he said. 

“The information which is collected and the information which appears on the credit file – be it the limited information that was on there prior to positive reporting or the expanded information which is now there – this needs to be correct, accurate and up-to-date.”

This inaccurate information will provide a skewed version of an individual’s credit history with every single credit agency in Australia, Trimarchi said.

“It’s not about the volume of information going in. It’s the accuracy of that information that needs to be looked at.”

The increased volume of information has another potential impact on consumers, he added, in that minor financial missteps will now be recorded.

“Even if a loan is in arrears for a few days, it still has capacity to be recorded on the credit file. It certainly does help the banks in determining creditworthiness but at the same time it will make it more difficult for a client who’s gone through a little bit of an upheaval in life … that puts them behind by two or three or four weeks before they catch up.”

How lenders will view these cases in future is yet to be determined, he said.

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