Kat Lane is interviewed by the SMH about how telecommunications and utilities companies may suffer from more late payments once consumers realise new credit rules only put a black mark on their credit file if they are late with loan payments
SMH – Banking and Finance – Shaun Drummond
Telecommunications and utilities companies may suffer from more late payments once consumers realise new credit rules only put a black mark on their credit file if they are late with loan repayments.
Damian Paull, the head of bank-backed Australian Retail Credit Association, said banks that chose not to report consumer repayments information and telcos and utilities – which are excluded from the new regime – could find there is a financial impact.
“Once consumers get a sense of who is reporting , what’s going to happen?,” he said.
“If I know bank X is reporting and Bank Y isn’t, what is going to happen to banks who do not report that information? What is going to happen to telcos and utilities?
“Is that going to put pressure on these organisations and their payments – I think this is probably going to happen,” he told a conference organised by Informa in Sydney on Wednesday.
The comprehensive credit reporting regime came into force on March 12, along with a raft of changes to privacy rules imposing tougher requirements to protect consumer data.
The new credit reporting rules give lenders the ability to voluntarily report repayments history to credit bureaus. This includes “positive” repayments history for the first time in Australia, which it is argued will give more people access to credit.
Under the original rules that came into force in March, any loan repayment –- including credit cards – more than five days late could be reported to credit bureaus. But after complaints by broadcaster Alan Jones soon after the new rules came into force, the government is changing this to 14 days.
Australia’s regime is unique because it does not allow telcos or utilities to report repayments or receive data on them from credit bureaus.
Float prospect Paid International plans to launch a new service to lend consumers money to pay their utility bills on time. Paid’s CEO, Tim Dean, recently said this would benefit from the telcos and utility exclusion from the reporting regime as they would be “pushed further down the queue” of bills that consumers pay.
Mr Paull said telcos originally didn’t want to be included in the new reporting regime because it would have required them to be covered by the 2009 consumer credit protection law.
“The [government has] linked responsible lending and repayment information inextricably together,” he said. “Telcos and utilities, whilst they are credit providers under the Privacy Act, do not want to come under consumer credit provisions in terms of being a responsible lender.”
However, he said telcos suddenly changed to opposing their exclusion at Senate hearings on the reporting rules in September 2012.
Submissions at the time from industry lobby group Communications Alliance asked that telcos be allowed to report and receive payments data, but be exempt from the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.
Katherine Lane, principle solicitor at the Consumer Credit Legal Centre, said she will always oppose telcos and utilities getting access to repayments data.
She is worried that people could easily build up a poor credit history from numerous inadvertent late utility payments and says telco and utility consumer protection is very poor. “If you’re going to have access to a lot of sensitive consumer data, then you have to be very well regulated for consumer protection,” she said.