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After undergoing male-to-female gender reassignment surgery, a woman changed her name to match her gender. After her name change, she applied for credit for a number of things, such as hire purchase agreements and home rentals.

During the course of these applications, the lender checked her information with a credit reporting agency. The agency told prospective credit providers that the woman had previously gone by another name.

The woman complained to our office under the Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004. She believed that the agency had breached her privacy by identifying her under her old name, not her current name. She also believed that the agency had disclosed her information without her permission.

The Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004

This case raised issues under rules 8 and 11 of the Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004. Rule 8 says that credit reporters must ensure the information they hold is accurate; rule 11 says they must not disclose information unless one of the exceptions applies.

The complainant believed that the credit reporting agency had breached rule 8 by listing her under the wrong name, and rule 11 by disclosing her old name to  prospective credit providers without her authorisation.

Our investigation

We investigated the case and found that the agency had told potential creditors about the woman’s former name, but had not disclosed any of the transactions associated with that name.

This did not breach rule 8 because the credit reporting agency was very clear that the old name was not her current identity. It was accurate to say that she currently uses one name but previously had another.

The credit reporting agency did not breach either rule 11. Rule 11 allows agencies to disclose information to potential creditors in a variety of circumstances, including if the agency believes that the disclosure has been authorised by the individual in question and is disclosed for the purpose of making a credit decision about that person.

The credit reporting agency believed – rightly – that the credit providers had the complainant’s authority to conduct credit checks. They also believed the fact that she had previously used a different name was relevant to those checks, as people sometimes use different names to obscure poor credit histories in the past.

Conclusions

The complainant alleged that the agency had identified her under her previous name. This was not the case; it had only informed potential creditors that she had a previous name. She also alleged that the information was disclosed without her consent. However, the act of applying for credit gives the agency consent to disclose relevant information. The fact that she had previously gone by a different name was relevant. We determined that there had been no privacy breach, and closed the case.

Further note

For reasons, unrelated to this case, the credit agency conducted a regular clean up of historic files. In the course of doing so, the cross-reference to the complainant’s previous name was purged. 

May 2016

Gender reassignment - Credit reporting agency – authorise disclosure – different names – Credit Reporting Privacy Code; rules 8, 11