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section heading icon     Australia and New Zealand

This page considers the Australian and New Zealand consumer credit reporting industry, including profiles of major Australian and overseas credit reporting enterprises. It also points to bankruptcy and property registers.

It covers -

The following page considers Australian tenancy reporting services and insurance reporting services.

Please note that we are not a credit reporting service or insurance referencing agency. We do not act for any of the services.


The industry in Australia reflects overseas structures, with most revenue accruing to a handful of major businesses (eg Experian) and a wide range of smaller enterprises engaging in reporting, debt collection (including physical repossession of goods) and personal investigation.

The industry majors and advocacy groups have been at some pains to distance themselves from the stigma associated with some of the smaller operators. They have, however, faced criticism by government agencies and consumer advocacy groups.

Veda Advantage's former Alliance Factoring debt recovery subsidiary, for example, gained a severe reproof from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in August 2005 over poor practice. Unsurprisingly, that condemnation has not been echoed by the company's peers.

In 2004 a small scale study by the Australian Consumers Association found 17 of 50 credit reports were defective, with one or more mistakes that ranged from misspelt names, a list of jobs that the individual had not held and addresses that had not been lived at. A NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre report regarding debt collection indicated that only 26% of consumers (again from a very small sample) believed their credit report was accurate, with 31% commenting they did not know how to dispute incorrect information, 23% unsuccessfully disputing information and 17% achieving a correction.

     Australian and New Zealand businesses

In Australia the major independent operator appears to be Veda Advantage (formerly Baycorp Advantage), which boasts that it is

the largest credit-reporting bureau in Australia. As such our secure databases hold up-to-date records on over 13.5 million individuals and trading organisations.

It has an arrangement with Insurance Reference Services Ltd (IRS) - the Australian insurance industry referencing agency discussed later in this profile and has formed Trans Union Advantage as a joint venture with TransUnion.

Baycorp originated in New Zealand and traces its history to the Hutt Valley Collection Agency established in 1956 "over a butcher shop in Wellington" by the McLaughlin family. They acquired other NZ collecting and reporting agencies - notably Nationwide Credit Services in 1987 - before an unsuccessful expansion into Australia and takeover of major competitor Creditcorp Services in 1993.

Baycorp returned to Australia in 1998, established a Singapore-based joint venture with Keppel Communications and an identity certification service 128i Limited (endorsed by the NZ government in 2001). In the latter year it acquired Australian loan management services company Axcess Consulting and merged with Sydney-based Data Advantage to form Baycorp Advantage.

Data Advantage had absorbed Credit Advantage (formerly the Credit Reference Association of NSW), with records on over 12 million people and a million businesses. The Association started in 1967 with bad debt information from the Retail Trader's Association of NSW. It joined a Victorian database in 1976 before going national and automating enhanced data. [Please note that Caslon has no relationship with the Credit Reference Association. We cannot "fix" credit records. We do not act for Veda Advantage.]

In 2006 Baycorp sold its debt collection arm - Baycorp Advantage Collections Services, which had attracted some of the opprobrium associated with the private security industry - and rights to the Baycorp name. They were acquired by Trans-Tasman Collections, a joint venture of private equity groups Allco Equity Partners and DB Capital Partners. Baycorp Advantage rebadged itself as Veda Advantage.

Competitor Debt Management Service (DMS), part of Debt Management Group, "provides credit information and personnel recruitment services". TCM - an affiliate of the credit management and debt collection services network TCM Group International - operates in New Zealand as ICMS Credit Systems Ltd.

D&B Australasia (DBA) announced in 2002 that it was entering the Australian and New Zealand consumer credit reference market. It was at that time 77.5% owned by AMP Henderson, 2.5% held by D&B Corporation and 20% by local management, following a 2001 IPO of the Australasian arm of the former Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) group.

     property registers

Registration of real estate in Australia is undertaken by state government agencies, discussed in more detail here.

Financial institutions and other entities can access data (online or in hardcopy) about property titles from those bodies. They also exchange information, for example as part of mortgage transfers.

The state/territory agencies are -

  • ACT - Registrar-General's Office (RGO)
  • New South Wales - Department of Lands (DL)
  • Northern Territory - Land Titles Office (LTO)
  • Queensland - Land Registry (LR)
  • South Australia - Land Titles Office (LTO)
  • Tasmania - Office of the Recorder of Titles (ORT)
  • Victoria - Land Registry (LR)
  • Western Australia - Landgate (formerly Department of Land Information) (Lg)

The counterpart in New Zealand is Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

     bankruptcy registers

In Australia the federal government's Insolvency & Trustee Service Australia (ITSA) administers the national personal insolvency system, centred on the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (BA). It also has responsibilities under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 and the Customs Act 1901.

ITSA maintains the National Personal Insolvency Index (NPII), showing details of bankruptcy proceedings under the Act and its predecessor legislation. In 1998-9 some 166,720 NPII searches were recorded (127,534 through brokers), up from 162,281 searches in 1997-8. By 2003-4 that had risen to 237,827 searches, up from 221,017 in 2002-3.

All entries on the NPII
are publicly available and new records are listed within 24 hours of receipt by ITSA. The debtor's full name and date of birth are used as key identifiers. A search will typically will show the

  • type and date of bankruptcy administration or proceeding
  • identification number
  • full name and alias of debtor
  • debtor's address and date of birth
  • debtor's occupation and business name
  • name of the trustee or controlling trustee
  • particulars of any prior or subsequent listing
  • the end date of the administration

ITSA notes that "any person can, for a fee, gain access to the information", either at an ITSA office or through four information brokers (CITEC, Lawpoint, Australian Business Research and Legalco) that have been authorised by ITSA to provide real-time online searches.

There were 26,285 new insolvency administrations in 2003-4 (compared with 27,592 in 2002-3). As a point of reference there were 1,637,254 bankruptcies in US federal courts in 2004-5 (up from 1,442,549 in 1998), 35,898 in the UK and 92,554 in Canada.

In New Zealand a national insolvency database (covering personal bankruptcies and company liquidations) is maintained by the government Insolvency & Trustee Service (ITS) under the Insolvency Act 1967.

Other Australian government registers are explored elsewhere on this site.

     taxation records

In both Australia and New Zealand there is no public access to individual personal taxation records (whether in full or as an abstract), in contrast to the Norwegian regime noted in the preceding page of this profile.

     personal property securities databases

Lending by credit provider such as banks and finance companies to individuals and business is often secured by the lender taking collateral. That collateral is a 'security interest' in real estate (a real property security) or in other types of property such as crops, motor vehicles, art works, livestock and even intangibles such as patents (personal property securities aka PPS).

Regulation of PPS in Australia as of mid 2006 involves over 70 discrete Acts, administered by at least 30 Commonwealth and state/territory agencies. That legislation has been reflected in a range of registers, for example the NSW Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) database that identifies security interests in motor vehicles and boats.

During 2006 the Attorneys-General proposed development of a national online PPS register that would facilitate registering and discovering security interests over most types of tangible and intangible PPS. The register would feature details of lenders and borrowers, along with identification of the collateral.

The expectation is that the register would be searched by a range of users, including institutions and members of the public (eg prospective lenders or purchasers), to determine whether a particular item of personal property was being used as collateral for a loan. New Zealand established a national PPS register in the 1990s.

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version of June 2008
© Bruce Arnold
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