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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Advices on disclosures by credit reporting agencies" [1994] PrivLawPRpr 89; (1994) 1(6) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 112

Advices on disclosures by credit reporting agencies

Australian Privacy Commissioner - Credit Reporting Advice Summaries, Federal Privacy Handbook, p1243 (Release 3, March 1994) - Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) Part IIIA

The Privacy Commissioner's summaries of written advice given to the credit industry and others are the unofficial ''lore' around which credit reporting practices are based. See 1 PLPR 74 and 1 PLPR 94 for the first two parts of this note. References are to paragraph numbers of the advice summaries.

Disclosure by credit reporting agencies to non-credit providers

Many organisations which previously had access to credit reporting agency files are now prevented from doing so by s18K. A building industry regulatory body cannot access consumer credit reports for the purpose of monitoring the financial performance of builders and assisting in enforcing judgments against them, although it can access commercial credit reports [6.3]. AUSTRAC (formerly CTRA) cannot obtain reports from credit reporting agencies, and the AUSTRAC regulations do not provide authority for such disclosures. Credit providers cannot use credit reports for AUSTRAC verification requirements [6.4]. Law enforcement authorities should be required to make a formal request for access, providing evidence of authority under s18K(1)(m) [s6.5]. Legal advice may be required before information is disclosed to trustees in bankruptcy are authorised by the Bankruptcy Act (Cth), but s77AA(1) and s77C may provide authority for an Official Receiver [6.6]. Mortgage insurers [6.7] and credit enhancers [6.8] are now able to obtain access.

Disclosure by credit reporting agencies to credit providers

The obtaining of credit reports for periodic reviews of commercial trading accounts, or in the case of exceptional purchases, can be treated as a fresh application for credit, provided the individual concerned is informed that this might happen and consents in the required way [7.2]. If a person fails to renew a rental agreement but retains an item of rented equipment, this could be regarded as an overdue payment and justify the obtaining of a report [7.4]. The following may be regarded as fresh applications for credit: re-negotiation of the terms or amount of a loan [7.5], review of revolving credit facilities [7.6], or review of overdraft facilities [7.7], but there must be compliance with the Act's formalities. Credit reports on supplementary credit card holders may only be obtained if the supplementary applicant is a co/joint borrower [7.9]. Unless a State credit law authorises such disclosure, disclosure of up-to- date address information for the purpose of providing refunds under State credit laws is not a lawful purpose under the Privacy Act [7.10].

This note will be concluded in the next issue

Graham Greenleaf


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