A credit bureau is an agency that collects credit information on a customer’s credit history from various sources and provides that information, for a fee, to prospective lenders. Reports from credit bureaus are expected to provide lenders with information to improve their assessment of a borrower’s credit worthiness, which should in turn affect interest rate based pricing. Jamaica’s Credit Reporting Act (CRA) came into effect on October 1, 2010 and established a framework for the collection and utilization of accurate, relevant credit information in a manner intended to respect the confidentiality of the consumer.
A credit bureau must only disclose credit information obtained from a credit information provider. The bureau must not disclose credit information to a credit information provider unless the provider has furnished the written consent of the consumer to the disclosure. Only entities licensed under the CRA are authorized to offer credit bureau services and collect credit information from credit information providers. Credit information providers include banks, credit unions, The Students’ Loan Bureau and hire purchase vendors. The Act specifies the type of information that qualifies as Credit Information.
Most of us would have noticed that credit information providers have published in daily newspapers in local circulation notice of their intention to provide credit information, as required by law.
There are several obligations imposed on bureaus and providers aimed at ensuring that credit information is accurate. A credit information provider must not disclose credit information unless it is satisfied, after undertaking all reasonable enquiries and investigations, that the information is reliable. Credit Information is deemed reliable if it is accurate in all material respects, presented in a fair and balanced manner and does not include the personal information of any consumer (unless the consumer consents to the inclusion as required). Where a credit information provider discloses credit information and subsequently has reasonable grounds to believe that the information is unreliable, it is obliged to give written notification to the following persons that the information is unreliable: the consumer, all persons to whom it disclosed the information, and the supervising authority which is the Bank of Jamaica (“BOJ”), or any other entity declared to be the supervising authority by the Minister of Finance. Additionally, all such persons must be given all reliable credit information in its possession or control in respect of that matter.
A credit bureau must not disclose credit information it knows or has reasonable cause to suspect is false or misleading. Where information disclosed by a credit bureau is shown to be inaccurate, the bureau may incur civil or criminal liability unless: (i) at the time of the disclosure, the credit bureau did not know, or have reasonable cause to suspect otherwise; and (ii) where knowledge of, or reasonable cause to suspect the inaccuracy, came to the credit bureau after it made the disclosure and the credit bureau immediately gave written notice of the inaccuracy to the consumer concerned and to each person to whom it disclosed the information and took steps to correct the inaccuracy in its credit files relating to the consumer (including deleting the incorrect information from its records, or destroying the inaccurate information).