MINOR DEFAULTS RECORDED
Consumers groups are worried about the changes, and say the most concerning aspect is that late repayments of only a few days will be recorded in people’s credit histories.
VIDEO:Steve Brown explains the changes (ABC News)
Kat Lane works at the New South Wales Consumer Credit Legal Centre.
“The big issue is this is something that’s been pushed in by industry to manage making decisions on credit risk when lending to people and, of course, the problem is for consumers is that this isn’t necessarily a good thing for them,” she said.
“Australians who are just struggling with paying their everyday bills, if they’re more than five days late on their credit card, their home loan or their personal loan, then suddenly they’re going to have a mark on their credit report.
“That may mean that when they go to get credit, they may have to pay a higher interest rate.”
Ms Lane believes it is unlikely that lenders will use the information to scale back on the number of loans and credit cards they give out, instead she expects them to simply use the information to charge more interest.
“So you go into the bank to go get a home loan and you’ve got several little marks from being just over five days late on paying your credit card over the last year, and suddenly the bank will say, ‘Well, according to this, your risk is a bit higher and therefore your interest rate is a bit higher’,” she explained.
“I think the low-income and disadvantaged people in our society are going to be severely disadvantaged by these changes because a lot of them, particularly those people living working poor or on part-Centrelink struggle to pay their bills already, particularly their loans, and they’re going to be people who are constantly facing higher credit costs.”
It may be too late to start changing repayment habits.
“The repayment history information isn’t just being collected from March 12 this year, it actually started collection in December 2012 and, as a consequence, that means that any late repayments in the last year could mean that you’ve already got a mark on your credit report for a late repayment,” Ms Lane added.
During the 1990s, Nigel Waters served as Australia’s Deputy Privacy Commissioner.
He now works with the Australian Privacy Foundation and has serious concerns about this week’s changes.
“The new rules basically allow them to get a picture of your detailed transaction and repayment history,” he said.
“All that does is allow them to target people more effectively for credit offers. So it’s basically, in our view, largely a marketing exercise.”
Mr Waters says the changes reflect the industry’s laziness in checking information provided by loan applicants.
“They’ve always been able to get that picture from bank references and seeking more information from people,” he said.
“Basically, they’re just lazy. They want a quick and cheap and easy way of knowing more about you, and we just think that’s unnecessary and unduly intrusive.”