Equifax Stung $3.5M Over False Credit Report Claims
Equifax Australia (formerly Veda) has been stung a whopping $3.5 million in penalties, following revelations of misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct related to its credit report services.
The service – used by several Australian retailers – admitted it breached Australian Consumer Law in 2016 and 2017, after its representatives were found to have made false/misleading assertions to consumers during phone calls.
The ACCC claims Equifax wrongly informed consumers paid credit reports contained more information than legally mandated free reports, when in fact both contained the same information.
ACCC Commissioner, Sarah Court, asserts Equifax persuaded consumers to buy credit reports, despite users’ legal right to obtain one for free.
According to the Privacy Act 1988, consumers are entitled to access their credit reporting information for free once a year, coupled with other circumstances (more information here).
Equifax has also admitted it failed to inform consumers paid credit reports packages would automatically renew, unless consumers opted out.
“We considered it unacceptable that consumers were denied the knowledge and proper opportunity to opt out of recurring charges from Equifax,” adds Ms Court.
The company also informed consumers credit reports in its paid packages were the same as those used by credit providers, when this was not always the case.
Concerning three “vulnerable consumers”, Equifax has admitted to employing unfair sales tactics, coupled with misleading representations.
The Federal Court has also ordered, by consent, that Equifax establish a consumer redress scheme, enabling affected consumers to seek refunds for a 180 day period.
In addition to $3.5 million in penalties, Equifax has also been ordered to contribute $100,000 to cover the ACCC’s legal costs.
Affected consumers are invited to contact Equifax by phone (1800 958 378) or online to obtain a refund.
Further information is available on the ACCC’s website here.