Submission - Credit Reporting Regulatory Framework: Submission to ALRC Privacy Inquiry (December 2007)

2.4. Access to data

This section discusses access to data, including ease of access, cost of access and consumer awareness.

As discussed in the sections on notice and data accuracy, consent has been effectively removed from credit reporting as a privacy protection, so it is important to strengthen alternative protections, including access rights. Industry will also benefit from improvements in access, as this will lead to improvements in data accuracy.

The proposed UPP 9 provides a short, generic access right, accompanied by a long list of exceptions. It may be necessary to set out more detailed access provisions in credit reporting in the proposed Privacy (Credit Reporting Information) Regulations. The Regulations could provide more detail on the costs of access and remove the majority of the exceptions found in UPP 9.

The cost of access may be an issue in credit reporting as current industry arrangements require consumers to choose between ‘fast and expensive’ access or ‘slow and free access’.[18]

The proposed Privacy (Credit Reporting Information) Regulations should specify that some form of free, timely access to credit reporting information should be provided. The benefits of improved access arrangements will flow to both consumers and industry. Some consideration might be given to reducing the time period for free access from 10 to 5 days to reflect the nature of modern information systems and communication channels.[19]

These outcomes (free and timely access) should be specified in the proposed Privacy (Credit Reporting Information) Regulations, not an industry Code, as access is a ‘rights’ matter rather than an operational matter. Some detailed industry processes that helped to deliver these outcomes might be included in a potential industry Code if that is thought necessary by industry. 

[18] ALRC IP32 summarised current industry practice: Veda Advantage provides access free of charge by post within 10 working days; or for $27 within one working day by email, facsimile or mail. Dun and Bradstreet provides access free of charge by post within 10 working days; or for $25 posted by express mail within one working day. Tasmanian Collection Service provides access to credit information files free of charge ‘where the request relates to an individual’s refusal of credit, or is otherwise related to the management of the individual’s credit arrangements’ and, otherwise, for $13.

[19] This Report does not present a view on whether access to credit scores and scoring methodologies should be included under the access rights. This would appear to add considerable complexity for a limited benefit.