The Senate Committee has handed down its report on the Credit Reporting Exposure Draft Bill. The Draft Bill is the second of four parts of the Government's first stage response to the Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC's) recommendations for the reform of Australian privacy laws. Once the Senate Committee has reported on all four parts and any recommendations are taken into account, all parts will be consolidated to comprise a new Privacy Act. The remaining parts relate to health information and to the functions and powers of the Australian Information Commissioner.
The current credit reporting provisions in the Privacy Act 1988 regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information concerning credit that is intended to be used wholly or primarily for domestic, family or household purposes. (Commercial credit information is only covered in limited exceptional circumstances). They apply to individuals whose personal information is contained in a credit information file, credit reporting agencies, credit providers and persons providing third party personal information to credit reporting agencies. Credit providers include not only banks and entities which provide loans or issue credit cards but also any entity which makes a loan to a customer and allows that customer to defer payment for 7 days or more.
The reforms proposed under the Exposure Draft provide for a more comprehensive credit reporting regime and include the addition of five new data sets. These new data sets greatly expand the amount of credit information that will be permitted to be collected, used and disclosed. The credit reporting provisions will also apply to a wider range of credit reporting agencies and credit providers.
The Senate Committee makes thirty recommendations in its Report. These recommendations relate to improvements about the clarity of the Exposure Draft, simplification of key definitions and the need for consistency across the consumer credit regulatory regime. They also cover issues such as serious credit infringements, identity theft, hardship provisions and complaints handling.
Some of the key recommendations made by the Senate Committee are:
Other components of the reform framework
Despite concerns in relation to the complexity of the Exposure Draft it is expected that the majority of matters which require clarification will be addressed by either the Explanatory Memorandum, the new Credit Reporting Code of Conduct (which is currently being developed in consultation with stakeholders) or in guidance from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
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