16 May 2019

Credit report responses too slow for new deadlines - Privacy Commissioner

3:31 pm on 16 May 2019

Most credit report companies are too slow at handling people's requests for their information to meet new timeframe deadlines coming in July, a spot check by the Privacy Commissioner has found.

Closeup of young couple reviewing their bank accounts with a digital tablet and calculator at home. Financial family concept.

Photo: 123rf

Between October 2018 and February this year 30 mystery shoppers sought their credit information from the three companies who produce reports - Equifax, Centrix and illion - and reported back to the Commissioner on their experience.

From 1 July, companies' allowed time for getting a person's credit report to them after a request will change from 20 days to 10 days.

A credit report is a breakdown of lending and payments history and may include history for other bills like electricity and phone. More than half of the reports sought in the sting took more than 13 days to come back.

One company, Centrix, took five days to produce a report in 2015 - but now takes 15.

"It is important that the public has timely access to their credit information to maintain an awareness of their credit status, to ensure that the information is accurate and to help guard against the risk of identity theft," the Commissioner's report said.

Consumers can also specifically request a faster five-day turnaround, at a cost, but credit reporters often did not get these back within the timeframe.

The exception to this was Equifax's Alert Service which got reports back within a day.

The report also noted that consumers should be aware that their results may be different depending on what company they used.

"All credit reporters have different subscribers from which they source credit information, so the information held by each credit reporter is not all the same. It is important for consumers to be aware of the credit information held by each credit reporter as this may assist them to understand why they were approved or not approved credit from credit providers."

The report said for the most part the three companies delivered similar results for the same customer, but there were some outliers.

"These outlier results underline the desirability for transparency about how credit scores are derived. Consumers can be subject to tangible differences in service offerings based on credit scores and the increasing use of risk-based pricing models in credit offerings."

Other changes to the Credit Reporting Privacy Code coming into effect in July include the right for a consumer to see their credit score, if a report has been requested by a third party - for instance that customers bank.

In April a series of amendments https://privacy.org.nz/assets/Uploads/CRPC-changes-summary-document.pdf to the code were rolled out, including prohibiting credit reporters from using credit information for direct marketing purposes and easier credit freezing when a customer has been a victim of fraud.

More changes will come into effect in October.