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Privacy Act & codes

1. Credit reporting helps credit providers decide whether to lend to you.

Credit reporters gather and share information about your past behaviour which helps credit providers to make future decisions more

2. Your borrowing reflects on you.

Credit providers can now see how much you've borrowed and whether you're managing to make repayments on time more

3. Credit isn't just about borrowing money: power and phone companies also give credit.

Information on whether you paid your credit card, mortgage, car finance and hire purchase will end up on your credit report - but so too might your payment history for power and phone accounts more

4. Regularly check your credit report, especially if you're about to seek credit.

Your credit information is changing all the time and could have a big impact on you. It's free to check with a credit reporter so do it regularly more

5. You have the right to seek correction of credit information.

Inaccurate information could affect your ability to get credit. You can ask credit reporters to correct your information, and they'll work with credit providers and others to assist you, so contact them and get it sorted before you seek credit more

6. If you believe you're at risk of identity fraud, ask credit reporters to 'freeze' your credit information until the risk has passed.

You can ask credit reporters to suppress ('freeze') your credit report if you believe you're at risk of fraud. This will help stop new credit accounts being opened in your name more

7. There's more than one credit reporter - make sure you talk to them all.

There are a number of credit reporters in New Zealand. If you want to access your credit report, correct some information, or freeze your report, make sure you contact them all more



1. Credit reporting helps credit providers decide whether to lend to you.

Credit reporters gather and share information about your past behaviour which helps credit providers to make future decisions.

Most credit providers will check your credit report before considering your application for credit. The credit report is a significant part of the picture the credit provider builds of you and your suitability as a borrower.

The credit report is a crucial part of the credit process. It helps confirm your identity, verify your current credit obligations and is used to calculate the likelihood of you meeting your credit repayments.

Credit reports list the bad or 'negative' side of your past credit behaviour. If you fail to meet your credit obligations and the matter is sent to a debt collector this will show up as a 'default'. Arrangements to pay back defaults will be shown. If a default proceeds to a court judgment or bankruptcy this will also be recorded - and stay on the credit report for many years. If you skip out of your premises to avoid your creditors a warning notation may appear on your credit report.

Obviously this negative information makes it less likely that a future credit provider will give you credit. If they do, they may impose terms, such as a lower credit limit or higher rate of interest, to reflect the risk that you may default again.

Credit reports also record information that does not necessarily reflect badly on you - often called 'positive' information. The two main types of positive information are 'account information' and 'repayment history' (find out more here).

An individual's credit reputation is the sum of the good and bad features known about their past behaviour and current circumstances. Credit reporting makes information about patterns of past behaviour accessible to credit providers. Whether you pay your bills now will be taken into account if you seek credit in the future and may help or hinder you.

Given the importance of the information in credit reports, the Privacy Commissioner has imposed special controls to ensure credit reporters act fairly and that information in the system is reliable and used only for permitted purposes (find out more here). However, it's also important that you regularly check your own credit report and, if necessary, ask credit reporters to correct any errors on it.

Information sheet 1: What is credit reporting? (pdf)

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2. Your borrowing reflects on you.

Credit providers can now see how much you've borrowed and whether you're managing to make repayments on time.

Credit reporters can share information about your credit accounts. This includes how much you've borrowed or your current credit limits for each account ('account information') plus a monthly report of whether your due repayments are made on time ('repayment history information').

The account information covers various types of credit such as credit cards, mortgages, loans and utility or phone accounts. By showing your various credit accounts, and how much credit has been extended to you, credit providers get the big picture of your credit obligations. This account information helps credit providers to judge the risk of further lending to you and help ensure that you're not becoming over-extended.

Repayment history information shows whether a repayment is due on a credit account and, if so, whether or not you've paid it on time.

Most arrangements for credit include a requirement that the borrower repays that credit regularly, over time and on a fixed date. Most people make their payments on time but sometimes they can't or won't.

Repayment history information shows how well you're managing to repay your credit accounts. It can help credit providers to sort between individuals based upon how well they manage their credit obligations. Customers who have a good track record of meeting their repayments on time may be recognised as being at lower risk of default which could improve their chances of being approved for further credit or being offered better credit terms. Customers identified as being at higher risk of not being able or willing to meet repayments on time might be denied further credit.

Repayment history patterns may also help credit providers to identify customers who are getting into difficulties and take appropriate preventive action before those customers default entirely. For individuals who have defaulted on credit in the past, it may also provide a way for them to 'rehabilitate' themselves in the eyes of potential credit providers by showing that they can manage to make their repayments.

Remember, credit doesn't just mean borrowing money (find out more here).

Information sheet 2: Your credit reputation (pdf)

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3. Credit isn't just about borrowing money: power and phone companies also give credit.

Information on whether you paid your credit card, mortgage, car finance and hire purchase will end up on your credit report - but so too might your payment history for power and phone accounts.

Information about your credit ends up on your credit report - so what is credit?

Obviously credit includes borrowing money. This is sometimes called 'financial credit' and covers money obtained through credit cards, loans and mortgages.

However, information on non-financial credit also ends up on credit reports. This covers contracts, arrangements or understandings to provide property or services before payment. A few examples:

  • You stay the night in a hotel but are only asked to pay as you leave in the morning.
  • A plumber fixes your pipes and invoices you later.
  • Your utility company allows you to pay for your electricity or gas after it has been consumed.
  • Your telecommunications provider bills you for calls or internet usage after the end of each month.

The credit reporting system is used by both financial and non-financial credit providers. Both types of credit providers may obtain credit reports on individuals before extending credit and list defaults where individuals have failed to repay a loan or meet their bills.

In addition to defaults, credit reports may also include information about your current credit accounts and whether you've met your repayments on those accounts (find out more here). Most of that credit account information relates to financial credit such as credit cards and loans. However, certain non-financial credit accounts may also be listed, including those maintained by electricity and gas retailers and telecommunication service providers.

This means that whether you pay your power, gas, telephone or mobile accounts on time may be reflected on your credit report and form part of a credit score that is used by credit providers when deciding to give you credit.

Information sheet 3: What is credit? (pdf)

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4. Regularly check your credit report, especially if you're about to seek credit.

Your credit information is changing all the time and could have a big impact on you. It's free to check with a credit reporter so do it regularly.

You're entitled to ask credit reporters for a copy of the credit information they hold about you.

You can ask for just the information shown in your credit report or for all the information held about you. (Extra information not included in your credit report may include things like a complete list of people who have accessed your report.) If a credit reporter has generated a credit score about you, you have the right to be given an explanation of this score.

If you are willing to wait a short period, accessing your credit information is free. However, if you want immediate access a fee may be payable - a credit reporter may make a reasonable charge for an urgent request (that is to provide the information within 5 working days).

As the information on credit reports is constantly changing, it is recommended that you regularly check your credit report. How frequently you should do so is up to you - if you are especially credit active, you might wish to do so more frequently than at other times. As there are several national credit reporters in New Zealand you might consider checking a different one, say, every four months or, alternatively, check all three at the same time once a year.

It can be particularly useful to see the information on your credit report before seeking credit. That gives you the chance to check that everything is accurate and, if necessary, to ask the credit reporter to correct any errors you may find. If you do this in plenty of time, any corrections that may be warranted may be completed in advance of consideration of a credit application.

If you discover credit accounts that you never applied for, defaults you didn't know about or credit enquiries you never authorised, then you might have been the victim of identity fraud. You can then ask the credit reporter to 'freeze' your credit information.

Before giving you a copy of your credit information, the credit reporter must be satisfied that you are who you say you are. This is to protect your information from unauthorised access requests.

Information sheet 4: Checking your credit report (pdf)

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5. You have the right to seek correction of credit information.

Inaccurate information could affect your ability to get credit. You can ask credit reporters to correct your information, and they'll work with credit providers and others to assist you, so contact them and get it sorted before you seek credit.

Your credit report contains sensitive information about you, your current credit obligations and how you have managed credit in the past. This information can make or break an application for credit. Sometimes it may be seen by prospective employers or landlords. It may be in your interest to check your own report and ask to have any errors corrected.

If you seek credit, most credit providers will check your credit report with one of the national credit reporters. If the report contains prejudicial information - like defaults, judgments or records of missed repayments - then credit may be declined.

Credit reporters are required by law to be very careful to ensure that the credit information they hold about people is accurate and up-to-date. Even where credit reporters have good systems to maintain accurate records, errors can nonetheless occur in the millions of records they hold and update. Some of the reasons for inaccuracies may include:

  • Mixing up information about you and someone else.
  • A credit provider wrongly listing a debt that you dispute.
  • Delayed updating of records of facts that have changed.
  • Human error such as data entry mistakes.
  • Fraud by someone impersonating you.

Accordingly, it's worth checking your credit report - you may be in the best position to spot a mistake. You have a right to get errors fixed.

The law specifies maximum periods for which various types of information may continue to be reported. For example, defaults can remain on your report for five years, records of missed repayments for two years. Some information will remain on your credit report even if you've since taken action to address a problem. If you settle a default, for example, the record of it will still show on your credit report for the permitted period of time, although it should be updated to show it was paid.

The best way to find out if your reports contain inaccuracies is to regularly ask the credit reporters for a copy of them. You can then check through the information and make sure it's right.

If you do find an error, you should promptly contact the credit reporter to point it out and ask for it to be corrected. The credit reporter will usually check the facts with the source of the information (the bank that listed the default for example). During this process, the credit reporter will either suppress the disputed information or flag your report to show what information is disputed and that it is being checked for accuracy.

The credit reporter should make a decision on your request for correction within 20 working days (if a longer time is needed to check the information the credit reporter should notify you of an extended time and explain why). The credit reporter will either correct the disputed information or, if that's not appropriate, tell you why it is not willing to make the requested change. You can ask the credit reporter to attach a statement to the information, to show that you dispute it. You also have the right to complain to the Privacy Commissioner if you're not happy with a credit reporter's failure or refusal to act on a correction request.

Information sheet 5: Correcting your credit report (pdf)

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6. If you believe you're at risk of identity fraud, ask credit reporters to 'freeze' your credit information until the risk has passed.

You can ask credit reporters to suppress ('freeze') your credit report if you believe you're at risk of fraud. This will help stop new credit accounts being opened in your name.

If you think you're at risk of fraud, you can ask credit reporters to suppress the credit information they hold about you. Once suppressed, the credit information is not available to any new credit providers. This makes it difficult for a fraudster to obtain credit in your name, as most credit providers will not grant new credit if they are unable to check your credit report.

The process for obtaining a credit freeze has several steps. As you may need to act urgently to protect yourself if you become aware of a risk of identity fraud, individuals are entitled to obtain an initial 10 working day freeze no questions asked. However, if you want to extend the freeze for longer than that initial period, you will need to apply to the credit reporter and provide them with more information to establish that you're at risk.

A freeze is a very effective way to prevent people fraudulently opening a new credit account in your name. It's not useful for other types of fraud, like existing account fraud (e.g. someone improperly using your existing credit card). A freeze can also cause inconvenience to those who like to be able to obtain credit spontaneously.

Additional guidance is available on credit freezing in the following fact sheets:

Information sheet 6: Credit freezing (pdf)

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7. There's more than one credit reporter - make sure you talk to them all.

There are a number of credit reporters in New Zealand. If you want to access your credit report, correct some information, or freeze your report, make sure you contact them all.

Companies checking your creditworthiness may use different credit reporters, so it's important that, if you're checking your credit report, you approach all of them. Your bank might use one credit reporter while your phone or power company, or a prospective landlord, might use another.

You might need to contact a credit reporter to ask for a free copy of your credit report, have errors in the report corrected or to seek a credit freeze if you're at risk of identity fraud. Credit reporters also list useful information on their websites, like how to seek a credit freeze or dispute information.

Here are the contact details for the three national credit reporters (though other smaller or specialised credit reporters may operate too):

 

  Centrix Illion (formerly Dun & Bradstreet) Equifax (formerly Veda)
Web www.centrix.co.nz www.dnb.co.nz www.mycreditfile.co.nz
Phone 0800 236 874 0800 362 222 0800 692 733
Email consumer.services@centrix.co.nz pacnz@dnb.co.nz publicaccess.nz@veda.co.nz
Write PO Box 62512
Greenlane
Auckland 1546
PO Box 9589
Newmarket
Auckland 1031
Private Bag 92156
Auckland Mail Centre
Auckland 1142

Information sheet 7: Who are the credit reporters? (pdf)