Veda Advantage Ltd, a company which stores the credit history of millions of Australians, has been accused of breaching new credit reporting laws by promoting its $79.95 credit report at the expense of the free credit report it is legally required to offer. Consumer advocates say Veda Advantage is leading many Australians to pay for something they could otherwise receive for free.
Under new credit reporting laws implemented in March 2014, credit reporting agencies like Veda Advantage must offer a free credit report to all Australians once every twelve months, and to consumers who makes an unsuccessful application for credit and request their credit report within three months of the application. Credit reporting agencies must also make accessing the free report as easy as getting a paid copy. But in a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, consumer advocates claim the layout of Veda Advantage’s website suggests it is thumbing its nose at the new laws.
Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre, Financial Counselling Australia and the Australian Privacy Foundation are disappointed that Veda Advantage has chosen to ignore one of the most fundamental and straightforward requirements of the new credit reporting laws.
‘There is now more information on credit reports than ever before, so it’s essential Australians have easy access to the free credit report so they can keep an eye on their credit history. Sadly it seems Veda Advantage is deliberately steering visitors toward paying $79.95 for something they could get for free.’ said Katherine Lane, Principal Solicitor at the Financial Rights Legal Centre.
‘You just need to look at Veda’s website or try ordering a free credit report over the phone to know that it is not as simple as getting a paid copy of your report. The free credit report service is buried on its website and you’d only find it if you knew what to look for. What’s worse is that the identification requirements to get a free report are much more onerous than a paid report – that’s not justifiable and simply unfair.’ said Ms Lane
Fiona Guthrie of Financial Counselling Australia said credit reporting agencies were the big winners in the recent shakeup of Australia’s credit reporting laws, and consumer advocates are disappointed that one of the key consumer safeguards is still being overlooked.
‘Australians looking for their credit report are often stressed, under financial pressure, and need things to be as simple and affordable as possible. That Veda Advantage is looking to make money out of these vulnerable clients is a real shame,’ said Ms Guthrie
Consumer advocates want the Privacy Commissioner to take immediate action to ensure that Veda’s service, whereby individuals may obtain their credit reporting information free of charge, is as available and easy to identify and access as its fee-based service.
‘There is no ambiguity about the new rules and it’s a simple problem to solve, so we’re hopeful that our complaint to the Privacy Commissioner will result in a quick fix,’ said Ms Guthrie.
NOTE: A copy of the complaint to the Privacy Commissioner is available on request.