Have you checked your credit status lately? Chances are you’ve never heard of organisations like VEDA, Dunn and Bradstreet or Experian, but you can bet they’ve heard of you. They provide credit reports to financial lenders. So if you have a credit card or phone, or you’re named on a utility bill, or if you’ve ever applied for a loan of any kind, then almost certainly at least one of them will have a detailed file on you. According to its latest report, Veda alone holds credit information on 20 million Australians.

The terrifying part about that is that the information such organisations receive, store, and when requested disseminate, is not necessarily entirely accurate. Most of them expressly deny responsibility for the accuracy of their records, despite the high level of importance often placed on the information they provide. One has been repeatedly accused of quoting incorrect information in check reports published to credit providers who subscribe to its service, sometimes with problematic consequences for loan applicants. Banks and other credit providers will often rely on such reports to check an applicant’s ability to make repayments on a loan, so if you’ve been delinquent in your lending behaviour in the past, or if errors and misleading information have crept onto your personal credit file, you could well be denied credit or even have a house purchase fall over as a result.

Of course, mistakes can happen in any sphere of endeavour, but once an error has been demonstrated, you would hope it would be corrected immediately. Unfortunately, in my experience that’s not always the case. One of my clients found herself refused finance for a house purchase on the basis of inaccurate information contained on her credit report, but she quickly pointed out the error and objected to it. But the company concerned dragged its heels for another 30 days before even providing a response. When she tried to complain directly to its so called investigation unit, the only answer she received was an automated email message saying a response would be forthcoming within 3 days. It wasn’t.

So try checking your credit history now. If you find a mistake, you might want to take immediate steps to correct it directly with the relevant credit reporting bureau. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can lodge a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner and/or the Financial Ombudsman Service. It may take some time to sort it all out, but better to do it now than when you actually have a pending finance date – because by then, it will probably be too late.

Cherie Orevich, Gold Coast Lawyer

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