A stricter credit reporting regime might make it harder to get finance

Those who struggle to pay their bills on time might find it harder to get finance after changes to credit reporting take effect from March.

Under the changes, credit reports will include much more detail about late payments on loans and credit cards.

Australia has a system in which only payments more than 60 days late are recorded – but under the new reporting regime, a payment more than five days late will be recorded as ”not made”.

A payment more than 60 days late will continue to be flagged as a ”default”.

Payment history will continue not to be included for utilities and telecommunications companies where credit is provided – only defaults of more than 60 days.

At present, credit reports include credit applications only, not whether the credit was approved or declined by the credit provider.

The move to comprehensive credit reports will include not only applications for credit but also whether a credit account for the mortgage, personal loan or credit card was opened, as well as closed credit accounts.

Credit providers will see credit limits of the accounts, if any, plus the payment history.

Principal solicitor of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW, Katherine Lane, says the changes will likely mean late payers will pay higher rates of interest on loans than people who pay on time.

Lane says people will need to be much more careful to make payments on time.

Even though the new credit reporting regime is not due to start until March 2014, payment history going back to December 2012 can be included in the reports.

Lenders lobbied for the changes because they say knowing more about a person’s credit history will help the industry to lend more responsibly.

They argued the system would enable them to more easily identify those not managing their debts.

Credit ratings agencies also wanted the changes to bring Australia into line with most other developed countries.

Dun & Bradstreet director of consumer risk solutions Steve Brown says it is unlikely a credit provider will rely entirely on a credit report to make a lending decision.

”Lenders are looking at a range of issues and one of them is whether someone has got the capacity to repay,” he says.

Brown says that under the new regime, credit providers would be able to much better assess the repayment capacity of those seeking credit. Someone might have defaulted three or four years previously after losing their job and credit providers would be able to see that payments were being made on time, Brown says.

Lane says five days overdue is too short a period to put on people’s records.

”What if [the missed payment] is because of a bank error or the house is flooded or someone has stolen your mail?” she says.

”There needs to be a concept of fairness when it is not your fault.”

She says individuals could be punished if banks take a month to correct an error. ”Why should a missed payment that is not your fault reflect on your creditworthiness?” she says.

People wanting to check their credit report can obtain a free copy from credit agencies.

A free credit report from Dun & Bradstreet takes up to 10 working days to be available.

Dun & Bradstreet charges a fee for an express service and a fee for a service that notifies the consumer when there is a change to their credit record.

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Posted by John Collett – The Age on 5th May, 2013