I need your help regarding a credit reporting matter. I recently applied for a job which required that my credit status be investigated. I signed the authorisation form and when the credit reporting agency did their checks, they determined that I had an outstanding credit card balance with a bank.
The bank was contacted by the credit reporting agency who is also a debt collector. The debt was assigned to the agency who promptly indicated that I had to pay the remaining balance or face a lawsuit.
The company where I did the interview was also informed of my below-average credit rating, and so my application was not successful.
This seems like double jeopardy as the credit agency is also the debt collector. I know that in the USA, there is no connection between the credit reporting agencies and debt collectors, for purposes of privacy.
Can you please clarify if the laws in Jamaica protect consumers from having their credit reports exploited by debt collection agencies?
Thanks, and keep up the great work.
According to the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), the Credit Reporting Act (CRA) which was passed in October 2010, took effect in January 2011.
The BOJ advised Tell Claudienne that the CRA does not restrict a licensed credit bureau from providing related value-added services as is the situation in several other jurisdictions.
"From our interaction with the local industry, the Bank of Jamaica is not aware of debt collection being a typical value-added service," the BOJ said.
BOJ said that the Credit Reporting Regulations (CRR) which effectively operationalised the CRA was promulgated in January 2011.
The BOJ said that the CRA "establishes a licensing regime for persons/companies desirous of offering credit reporting services in Jamaica."
During 2012 the Minister of Finance and Planning approved 2 licences under the CRA as follows: Creditinfo Jamaica Ltd - March 2012; CRIF NM Credit Assure Ltd - April 2012.
The Minister gave both entities a 12 month period within which to commence business. However, the BOJ said that credit reports may not necessarily be issued at commencement of business, given the time required to establish appropriate databases of consumer credit information.
Regarding your query as to whether the law protects consumers from having their credit reports exploited by debt collection agencies, the BOJ stated the following:
"Under the CRA a consumer credit report can only be issued to an entity with the consumer's specific written consent. The law further specifies the persons who can both give credit information to the credit bureau and access credit information from a credit bureau. The consumer's consent must be in place in order to access credit information from a credit bureau. Additionally, the consumer can also request the release of his/her report to any other party (e.g. for purposes of employment.) In all instances the consumer must give consent. As such, unless the consumer has given his/her consent for the report to be divulged to a particular entity, that entity would not have access to such consumer report. (Refer Section 11(3) of the CRA which speaks to the requirements regarding the consumer written consent.) The CRA makes it an offence [section 11(6)] to disclose credit information in contravention of the Act, which is punishable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding two million dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both fine and imprisonment."
" It would seem that the situation described above occurred prior to or during the period of transitioning to the new regulated environment, and may have involved an unlicensed credit reporting agency as the licensed entities have not yet commenced the issue of credit reports. As part of the process of implementing the credit reporting regime, the Bank of Jamaica has engaged in a process of identifying unlicensed credit reporting entities/agencies whose existence may have pre-dated the CRA, and whose continued operation would have implications for the CRA. This has involved:
i. The publication of notices in the daily newspapers advising of the implications of the CRA and inviting any affected persons to communicate with the Bank, including providing, among other things, details of the nature of services offered;
ii. The conduct of searches online, in telephone directories and at the Companies Office of Jamaica; and
iii. Formally contacting those entities identified and for which there were available addresses (based on feedback received in relation to items (i) and (ii) above), advising of the implications of operating in contravention of the CRA, and the need to discontinue credit reporting services as well as the use of the words which suggest involvement in credit reporting services (e.g. "credit bureau") from the registered name, company stationery, advertisements etc.
The Bank's investigative exercises are on-going as the Central Bank seeks to ensure that within the legal framework for credit reporting in Jamaica, only licensed credit bureau entities provide the credit reporting services permissible under the CRA."
Have a problem with a store, utility, a company? Telephone 936-9436 or write to: Tell Claudienne c/o Sunday Finance, Jamaica Observer, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a contact phone number.