Customers hit with unfair credit report fees
CONSUMERS requesting a copy of their credit report - a service which is free - were falsely told if they paid a fee their would get more comprehensive information.
The consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, yesterday slammed credit reporting agency Equifax for unfairly charging customers, labelling it "unacceptable" and "appalling."
Credit reports reveal a consumer's credit history including number of credit accounts they have, credit inquiries made and any defaults or judgments against them.
Customers can access this information free of charge.
Equifax falsely told customers if they paid a fee - usually around $75 and $90 - customers would receive more detailed information on their reports than what was available for free.
But findings by the ACCC discovered customers received the exact same credit report information regardless of whether they paid a fee or not.
Equifax conceded it breached Australian Consumer Law between February 2016 and March 2017 when its employees made false or misleading representations to customers over the phone about what information a customer would receive if they paid for it.
The ACCC's commissioner, Sarah Court, said the behaviour was unacceptable.
A Federal Court ruling ordered Equifax to pay penalties totalling $3.5 million.
"Equifax's conduct caused people to buy credit reporting services in situations when they did not have to," Ms Court said.
"Consumers have the legal right to obtain a free credit report under the law."
Equifax was also discovered as falsely telling consumers if they paid a fee for their credit report they would be charged a single "one-off" or "one-time" payment.
But what they failed to disclose was the paid services would automatically be renewed unless the customers opted out.
Equifax's group managing director of Asia Pacific Mike Cutter conceded the company had not done the right thing by consumers.
"Equifax acknowledges that some people have had an unacceptable experience and that we need to improve how we serve consumers," he said in a written statement.
"A concerted effort is underway to make that happen; changes have been made to prevent any reoccurrence and more will be introduced to ensure consumers have a better experience."
Consumers who purchased their services over the phone during this period can contact Equifax and request a refund.
Equifax said it had increased references to free consumer credit reports online and has made it easier for customers to cancel their services.