The ACCC has today instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against credit reporting body, Equifax Pty Ltd (formerly Veda Advantage Pty Ltd), alleging breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The ACCC alleges that from June 2013 to March 2017, Equifax made a range of false or misleading representations to consumers, including that its paid credit reports were more comprehensive than the free reports, when they were not.
Equifax also allegedly represented that consumers had to buy credit reporting packages for it to correct information held about them, or to do so quicker. In fact, Equifax was required by law to take reasonable steps to correct the information in response to a consumer’s request for free.
In addition, the ACCC alleges that Equifax represented that there was a one-off fee for its credit reporting services, when its agreement provided that customer’s subscriptions to the services automatically renewed annually unless the consumer opted out in advance. We allege this renewal term is an unfair contract term, which is void under the ACL.
In all the circumstances, it is alleged that Equifax acted unconscionably in its dealings with vulnerable consumers including by making false or misleading representations, and using unfair tactics and undue pressure when dealing with people in financial hardship.
“We allege that Equifax acted unconscionably in selling its fee-based credit reporting services to vulnerable consumers, who were often in difficult financial circumstances,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“We allege that Equifax told people they needed to buy credit reporting services from them in situations when they did not. It is important for consumers to know they have the legal right to obtain their credit report and to correct any wrong information for free.”
By law, consumers are entitled to access their credit reporting information for free once a year, or if they have applied for, and been refused, credit within the past 90 days, or where the request for access relates to a decision by a credit reporting body or a credit provider to correct information included in the credit report.