Data Bureau, an obstacle to Access Credit

20/11/2014 16:25

Fiji Data Bureau is an obstacle to consumers who want to access credit to improve their quality of life. As a privately owned company it operates under a disclaimer that is pushing people into hardship.

It is unfortunate that the Fiji Data Bureau is not taking any responsibly for uploading inaccurate credit information given by its paid members. Data Bureau has stated online “You must be aware that the information on your credit report is supplied by third parties, therefore the Credit Bureau will not be held liable for its inaccuracy”. Since this company trades in collection and selling of credit information, it should not be allowed to operate under a disclaimer.

This concern comes from the Council in light of the „consumer outcry‟ over their inability to access credit from the financial institutions and businesses – simply because their names are listed on the Data Bureau database.

The reality is that many consumers purchase goods and services on credit to better their living standards but with such a draconian system in place, access to credit becomes just impossible for many.

The Council requests the Government to set the ground rules to regulate the manner in which Data Bureau runs its business by selling consumers‟ private information without any accountability to the consumers.

Right to privacy is also enshrined in our Constitution, giving every Fijian consumer that right. According to Section 24 (1) (a) Every person has the right to personal privacy, which includes the right to confidentiality of their personal information.

Apart from invading ones privacy, the other point of concern is that names of consumers uploaded by Data Bureau on its database are not deleted for 7 years even after they have cleared their arrears. As a result, the consumers continue to live with that stigma. Life almost comes to a standstill for them as no bank or business house wants to give loan given that their names are found in the Data Bureau database.

Of the many cases which the Council has at hand, in one case, the complainant owns a property worth $0.5 million dollars but was unable to access loan of $10,000 simply because his name keeps showing on the Data Bureau.

He defaulted his monthly mortgage repayment when he left the country for some time. In his absence, he had made arrangements with his relative to make monthly repayments to the credit provider which, however, was not honoured. As a result, he was in arrears of $5,000 which he cleared immediately upon his return. Now, he intends to buy a car worth $10,000 but many banks are showing him the door simply because his name is on Data Bureau database. The irony is that he owns a property of half a million dollars and has a good job with a very reputable company, yet no institution wants to give him a loan.

There are many other consumers who cannot access credit to buy household items or to start a small business because of the harsh self-imposed system put in place by the Fiji Data Bureau.

We urge the Government to look into this matter and bring some order in to the operations of Data Bureau for instance, when dealing with consumers ‟private and personal information; the time frame in which names of the consumers should be removed from their database; penalising Data Bureau for uploading names incorrectly; and the notification procedure by the Fiji Data Bureau before the names are uploaded.

Data Bureau began its operations in Fiji in 2001 which has been an initiative of a group of financial institutions and insurance companies.This is a matter of public interest thus needs urgent attention!