Australia’s privacy laws will be reformed to better protect people’s personal information, simplify credit reporting arrangements and give new enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner.
“It is fitting to announce major legislative reforms to the Privacy Act during Privacy Awareness Week,” Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said. “In an increasingly digital world, both consumers and governments have a role to play to protect privacy. In introducing these changes, the Gillard Government is doing its bit to protect the privacy of Australian families.”
The Attorney explained that key changes to benefit consumers are:
- clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing
- extending privacy protections to unsolicited information
- making it easier for consumers to access and correct information held about them
- tightening the rules on sending personal information outside Australia
- enhancing the powers of the Privacy Commissioner to improve the Commissioner’s ability to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance.
The Government will also modernise credit reporting arrangements. Benefits for consumers include:
- making a clear obligation on organisations to substantiate, or show their evidence to justify, disputed credit listings
- making it easier for individuals to access and correct their credit reporting information
- prohibiting the collection of credit reporting information about children
- simplifying the complaints process by removing requirement to complain to the organisation first, complaints can be made directly to the Privacy Commissioner, and by introducing alternative dispute resolution to more efficiently deal with complaints.
“There have been big changes to the way we access finance since 1990 when the existing credit reporting provisions came into effect,” Ms Roxon said. “Many consumers have expressed their frustration at not being able to understand their credit rating. “These changes will provide much more power to consumers to be able to access and, if necessary, correct their credit reports.”
The Government expects the credit industry will benefit because the reforms provides a more accurate picture of an individual’s credit situation to help them make a robust assessment of credit risk, which is expected to lead to lower credit default rates.
The changes will be achieved through amendments to the Privacy Act 1988, which will be introduced into the Parliament in the winter sitting period. These changes represent the culmination of an extensive consultation process and will implement the Government’s response to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report – For your information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice.No sign, of course, of the proposed statutory tort of serious invasion of privacy.