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Black Mark Warning - Debt expert warns new privacy laws may change the face of your credit history

4 March 2014

A Fox Symes Newspoll suggests that hundreds of thousand of Australian bill payers may have already been caught out by the broader credit reporting changes that came into effect in mid-March.

Changes to the federal privacy laws, which allow lenders more information about borrowers, mean that credit card or loan repayments, that are as little as 5 days late, may now be recorded on credit information files.

"Our research has shown that more than 10% of bill payers surveyed admitted being late paying their credit cards, with more than a third citing financial difficulty as the most common reason for lateness," said Fox Symes debt expert Deborah Southon.

"Another 55% says it’s because they have been too busy, or they have simply forgotten to pay," she said.

"The bad news is some of this information about late payments of credit cards and loans has already been collected.

"This repayment history may now be accessed going back to December 2012 and may be stored on your credit file for up to 2-years," said Southon.She said the changes to the Privacy Act were not necessarily all bad news for consumers.

"The new comprehensive credit reporting provides a clearer picture of your credit behaviour. In this new credit reporting environment, it's crucial that you pay your bills promptly," she warned.

"While it can be devastating for people who are not prepared - it can also be positive for people who want to build a good credit history quickly to apply for their first loan or for those seeking to quickly demonstrate a new attitude after having a bad credit experience."

The Fox Symes Newspoll surprisingly revealed that as few as 8% of those surveyed have ever applied for a copy of their credit report.

"Everyone is entitled to access a free copy of their credit report each year," said Southon.

"It’s a good idea to get a copy of the your credit report just in case there’s something that’s been recorded against you that you are not aware of or that’s incorrect," she concluded.

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  1. Credit cards, store cards and personal loans are types of unsecured debts. Mortgages and car loans are not.