Credit Reporting Under Scrutiny

Government is moving to pass a Bill which will regulate credit reporting agencies in the country. Attorney-General and Minister for Finance, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, yesterday tabled the Fair Reporting of Credit
26 Apr 2016 12:09
Credit  Reporting Under  Scrutiny

Government is moving to pass a Bill which will regulate credit reporting agencies in the country.
Attorney-General and Minister for Finance, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, yesterday tabled the Fair Reporting of Credit Bill 2016 which will be debated on Wednesday.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum in his address to Parliament yesterday said that the Bill provides relief to ordinary Fijians to enable them to access credit from various sources through fair and proper reporting of their information. Every Fijian has a right to privacy regarding his or her credit information, he said.
Despite this, the Opposition called for public consultation on this Bill before it is passed in Parliament.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum questioned the rationale behind any such consultation when every Fijian on the current Data Bureau list would support regulating credit reporting agencies.
He said: “What’s happened to privacy? There is absolutely no protection for the individual citizen in this country when it comes to Data Bureau.”
He told Parliament that when the FijiFirst caucus was discussing this matter, he received a call from a gentleman in Toko, Tavua, who wanted to take out a loan of $5000 to repair his house.
His name was on the Data Bureau list due to a previous loan taken out from the Fiji Development Bank, even though the loan had been repaid. As a result of having his name on the Data Bureau list, he was not given a new loan from another commercial bank.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “There are absolutely no rules regarding when they should take off your name. There are absolutely no rules regarding how long they should keep your name.There are absolutely no rules regarding on what basis they can report a person.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also informed Parliament that even when a person may dispute the amount of debt, he or she can very easily be put on the Data Bureau list, without any explanation.

He explained that at the end of the day, a dispute regarding $10, even if the person rightfully does not owe the $10, could mean that the person’s name could still be placed on the Data Bureau list and this may prevent a person from entering into another credit transaction.

Such a person has no recourse against the credit reporting agency. This was emphasised as a very critical issue.


 Need to licence, need to regulate:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed in Parliament that currently the credit reporting agency faced no form of regulation, which left ordinary Fijians susceptible to falling victim to unscrupulous traders.

“They are not licenced by the Reserve Bank of Fiji. They need to be licenced by RBF.”

He stated that it was critical to have a law that licences credit reporting agencies and that there must be rules regarding the amount of debt a person should owe before they are included in any report produced by the credit reporting agency.

“It is very critical, Madam Speaker, that we have specific rules around that.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this law, in effect, gives people a clean slate to start from.

Currently, a person may be forced to settle a debt that he or she should not be paying because of unregulated credit reporting agencies.

The new law would give ordinary Fijians the right to dispute and correct the information held by the credit reporting agencies, protecting the rights of Fijians and ensuring that credit reporting is done accurately.


Who can access information:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said people needed to consent to their personal credit reports to be shared before it is done.

“This Bill gives ordinary Fijians the ability to start off with a clean slate, it says that any credit reporting agency that has that information must quarantine that information and give it to the Reserve Bank of Fiji. If that same organisation wants to commence business, they simply apply for a licence, they need to meet the criteria and the RBF will give them a licence.”

“We don’t want to stop anybody, we want to have more companies that can provide this type of service…But please follow the rules because this pertains to the individual rights of individual Fijians in this country and their ability to access credit.”

Opposition opposes:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum urged all Members of Parliament to vote in favour of the motion.

However, yesterday all 16 Opposition MPs chose to vote against it, to support a delay in providing a clean slate to all Fijians currently on the credit reporting agency’s list.

Opposition MP Viliame Gavoka called for public consultation on this Bill and told the House that most would not agree with this.

However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “Every single citizen of this country will be very happy with this Bill. We don’t need to go out and spend months on end to find out if they are happy or not.  The only people who probably won’t be happy, are the shareholders of this company, but even then Madam Speaker, even then, they can still operate the business, as long as they comply with the regulations… they need to comply with the clear set of rules that provide recourse to every ordinary Fijian.”

Edited by Maraia Vula




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