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Privacy Commissioner finds inadequacies in credit reporting

Privacy Commissioner finds inadequacies in credit reporting industry practice with “mystery shoppers”

12 May 2016

The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has found inadequacies in the way the three major credit reporting agencies – Veda, Centrix and Dun and Bradstreet – respond to requests for personal information from individuals.

The check found that two of the three national consumer credit reporters failed to respond to at least two access requests.

The three agencies all delivered reports within the legal timeframes when requests were made through the agency’s website. Report requests through phone, letter or in person took longer or did not arrive at all. In some cases, a response arrived in 20 days or fewer, but only to advise consumers to make their requests online.

“People who make information requests through offline methods have the same access rights as people who make requests through online methods. When consumers are not able to use online methods, agencies need to assist them to make valid requests through other channels,” Mr Edwards said.

Mystery shoppers

The Commissioner found the inadequacies in a “mystery consumer” exercise, in which contractors were hired to seek their own credit reports, then report back on their experience.

The contractors did not tell the credit reporting agencies why they were seeking their information, or that they had been hired to do so by the Privacy Commissioner.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with mystery consumers to investigate agency practice,” Mr Edwards said. “It certainly won’t be the last. We intend on using this method to examine other agencies, both public and private, as it’s a great way to see how they behave ‘in the wild’.”

The results of this spot check have been shared with the credit reporting agencies.

The spot check revealed a number of other aspects of credit reporting agency practice, such as:

• All three agencies are complying with their obligation to charge no more than $10 for an expedited report.

• Centrix provided reports in an average of 5.6 working days, Dun and Bradstreet 10.5 and Veda 16.5. This is a significant discrepancy.

Full report on the mystery consumer exercise.

ENDS

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