Australia’s new credit laws will place late-paying clients of licenced credit accounts such as credit cards and loans on the ‘naughty list’ if they are more than five days late with repayments.
So who’s going to be most at risk of getting a late payment notation?
In our experience, those with carry-over credit card debt, as well as those people with multiple credit cards could be most at risk.
Certainly, when assessing clients who present with bad credit, we find a significant number of clients with defaults who have carry over credit card debt and/or are juggling multiple credit cards and other debts in arrears.
These people are more likely to default because they have undertaken too much credit, often leaving no wriggle room for when life throws them a curve ball. Death, divorce, unemployment, sickness and relocation can all create that upheaval which leads to chaos with finances. If someone in the throes of a chaotic event is unable to pay an account and it falls more than 60 days in arrears, they can have a default placed on their credit file.
In the case of repayment history, it’s going to take much less of a curve ball to make a dent in the credit file. Australia’s credit reporting system proposes to tackle the over-commitment issue with the inclusion of repayment history information to an individual’s credit file. If a client gets more than five days behind in their credit card or loan repayments, their repayment history may show up on their credit file.
Those people robbing Peter to pay Paul – running from one repayment to the next, but never quite getting far enough in the red to cop a default on their credit file – are just the type of credit users big brother is hoping to catch out with repayment history information. It will mean people with bad habits when it comes to credit are going to be stopped in their tracks, and, eventually, won’t be able to take out major credit such as a home loan.
Too many late payments will be used to assess increased risk of default even when a default is not present on the credit file.
So how many people have carry-over credit card debt?
A recent survey conducted by Roy Morgan for ASIC shows that around 2 million Australians do not pay off their personal credit card debt in full each month, rising from 24 per cent of personal credit card holders in 2009 to 27 per cent of personal credit card holders in 2013.
Another recent survey showed the volume of Australians worried about their finances. Mortgage Choice revealed in its Money Survey last month that 53.4 per cent of people surveyed were “very worried” or “concerned” about their financial situation. The survey also found that 55.5 per cent of the respondents had credit card debt, with 45.7 per cent of them owing at least $4,000.
The fall-out goes to the uneducated
No one is immune to incurring late payments on their credit file, and the fear is that clients who don’t fall into the category of the overcommitted could also be tarred with the same brush. Those who are more than five days late because their bill goes missing, or who stay a little too long on holiday, or just get busy and forget to pay are going to be tarnished as a late payer.
And it seems that most people don’t know they run the risk of this. Recent statistics from Veda Advantage revealed that the majority of Australians do not know they can be penalised for making a credit card or loan repayment late. Statistics show that seven out of 10 Australians don’t know about Australia’s new credit laws.
How many late payments will lead to the declining of finance approval is up to individual lenders to decide. What we fear is that even one or two late payments over 24 months could change the interest rate offered.
How will the new laws change the credit landscape?
Not every licensed credit provider will be taking comprehensive credit reporting on board, and some will take a while to apply the changes. But what we do know is the shift to the new system is being encouraged by those within credit reporting, with a probable take-up by most licenced credit providers within the next 24 months.
Brokers may find there’s a teething period in the future, as lenders change the way they assess credit worthiness based on the new available information. What was once accepted by the top-tier lenders could now be declined.
My advice to brokers? Having knowledge of a client’s repayment history as well as any other adverse listings prior to making an application can help match the right product to your client. It may be a good idea to encourage clients to get a copy of their CRA, and even showing them how easy and quick it can be to obtain their credit report could be beneficial to everyone in the qualifying process.
Clients can obtain a free copy of all their credit reports from www.freecreditrating.com.au.
Graham Doessel is the chief executive and non-legal director of MyCRA Lawyers.
MyCRA Lawyers advocates for individuals in matters of credit file dispute.
An early pioneer in credit repair, over recent years Graham has become a frequent consumer spokesperson for issues impacting credit reporting, and is the Secretary and Spokesperson of the Credit Repair Industry Association of Australasia.
Graham also founded and is the non-legal director of Armstrong Doessel Stevenson Lawyers.
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