Credit reporting rules strengthened in N.B., and maybe Ontario

Both main agencies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, generally remove reports of bankruptcies from the record after six years.
Both main agencies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, generally remove reports of bankruptcies from the record after six years.

New Brunswick is overhauling its rules about credit reporting agencies and credit reports — which are becoming more important than ever before, especially after the various security breaches at the two main reporting agencies.

“The new act and rules also set out rules and restrictions on the activities of credit repair agencies in areas such as contract cancellation and charging advance fees to the consumer for their services,” said Alaina Nicholson, the province’s director of consumer affairs for the Financial and Consumer Services Commission.

It mandates agencies must be licensed and according to the director it is a big win for consumers. “The rules require credit reporting agencies to collect, maintain and report your credit and personal information accurately and responsibly.”

Credit agencies hold vast power over a consumer’s ability to obtain credit, so by licensing and clarifying the rules, it becomes better for those who rely on them, namely all of us.

Even the federal government uses “mandatory” credit checks if someone applies for a job at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

“Conducting a credit check as part of a security assessment helps determine an individual’s reliability, particularly as it relates to their ability to meet their financial obligations. While the status of an individual’s financial situation may not affect their ability to do a job, financial obligations or pressures could pose a security risk,” according to a release on Canada.ca.

In Ontario, the government passed a law earlier in 2018 that would compel agencies to provide consumers free access to their credit report twice a year, as well as include notations after credit scores were provided to any organizations within the last year, according to a release on the Ontario.ca website.

And the new rules also allow a person to “implement a credit freeze, at the request of a consumer to help reduce identity theft.”

The credit-agency problem is massive in Canada’s largest province. About 2,000 complaints and queries were made by consumers about credit agencies between January 2015 and December 2017, said the release.

However, the new Doug Ford PC government appears to have ignored the final steps in implementing the new act, which was passed in the dying days of the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government, reports The Globe and Mail.

“According to the body’s own rules, by default, legislation passed at Queen’s Park comes into force immediately upon receiving royal assent from the Lieutenant-Governor. However, oftentimes bills contain provisions that stipulate a specific or non-specific future date when a law will be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor, giving the law its force,” wrote Shane Dingman.

For bills to become law, the final step needs to be done, according to the Globe, and “it’s possible the government could simply never proclaim a date.”

The laws vary from province to province, and the federal government has a handy point-form page that details some of the vagaries.

For instance, both main agencies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, generally remove reports of bankruptcies from the record after six years, but in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec, they are gone after seven years.

Gone are the old days of mailing in requests for reports, now consumers can easily access their credit reports online from the agencies and from various other providers who offer free credit scores.

You would be wise not ignore your credit report: check it regularly and alert the agencies when something is wrong and watch the news because you never know when the next giant hack is upon us.

Find a Lawyer