Domestic abuse can take many forms, including economic or financial abuse. More information about economic abuse is available at www.financialsafety.org.au
When we talk about domestic abuse you should be aware that it is also referred to as (and is inclusive of) domestic violence, family violence or simply ‘DV’. It occurs as part of a domestic relationship, such as a marriage or defacto relationship or any other type of intimate relationship. The person who is abusive is called the “perpetrator” and the person who experiences the abuse is called the “victim” (where the relationship is continuing) or the “victim-survivor” (where the relationship is at an end).
Examples of situations of domestic abuse which take the form of economic or financial abuse include:
- Credit is taken out in a victim’s or victim-survivor’s name, in circumstances where domestic abuse is present, including where the credit is obtained without their knowledge or where they are forced to apply for the credit by the perpetrator of the abuse and without benefit to the victim/ victim-survivor
- A perpetrator may threaten to cease paying a joint loan taken out with the victim/ victim-survivor and perpetrator to prevent the victim leaving the abusive relationship or as a way of inflicting abuse.
More resources about how credit providers may deal with domestic abuse and credit reporting is available here:
- ABA Guideline on Family and Domestic Violence - this guideline sets out principles for dealing with financial abuse, and considers much more than credit reporting treatment but also issues such as protecting customer confidentiality and safety, helping customers regain control of their finances, recognising domestic abuse as being a factor which contributes to financial hardship, and preventing banks selling debt to debt collector where customers are experiencing domestic abuse.
- AFCA approach to joint facilities and family violence – this guideline sets out expectations for financial firms dealing with financial abuse and addresses a range of issues (again, much more than credit reporting). These issues include keeping customer information secure and confidential, preventing financial abuse, requirements to release a customer from a facility where they receive no benefit, dealing with disputed transactions, and expectations for providing financial assistance.
What steps are available to someone experiencing domestic abuse?
Through the credit reporting system, there are also options for how and what information is reported about your credit which may lessen the impact on your credit history. Each of these options will generally require the victim/ victim-survivor to let their credit provider know about the domestic abuse. It may be preferable for the victim or victim-survivor to obtain appropriate support first to get assistance to deal with the credit provider.
- Where victims/ victim-survivors have concerns about their credit – whether it is credit in their name only but forced to be taken out by the perpetrator, or they have joint credit with a perpetrator – they can let their credit provider know about these concerns. Many credit providers have support teams or people who have training and experience in dealing with domestic abuse. What a victim/ victim-survivor tells their credit provider about their experience should be treated as sensitive information.
- Where credit is taken out in the name of the victim/ victim-survivor but it is for the benefit of the perpetrator, the victim/ victim-survivor can request to be removed from this credit, and to have the history of this credit removed from their credit report. The first step to making this request will be to either raise a dispute, or if the credit provider has already provided assistance to the victim/ victim-survivor through a specialist team, to contact that team to let them know of this issue.
- Where a victim or victim-survivor has been unable to pay credit because of the situation of domestic abuse, and has been default listed, the victim/ victim-survivor can request to have the default removed from their credit report.
- Where a victim/ victim-survivor is experiencing financial hardship and has a joint loan with the perpetrator or a loan in the name of the victim/ victim-survivor only, the victim/ victim-survivor can seek hardship assistance from their credit provider. The credit provider may also be able to stop any hardship information being reported for this account, and instead no payment history will appear for this account where hardship assistance is in place.
- Victims/ victim-survivors should avoid using a credit repair agent (also known as debt management firms) to help them deal with their situation. Credit repair will charge for services which victims/ victim-survivors can access themselves for free. Credit repair may also not put victims/ victim-survivors in touch with domestic abuse support services, and so they may not be aware of the wide-range of free support that is available to them.
Where a victim/ victim-survivor has been unable to seek help while still in the abusive relationship, this does not prevent that victim/ victim-survivor requesting a correction of their credit report once they have left the relationship. Again, the victim/ victim-survivor will need to let their credit provider know about the domestic abuse. It may be preferable for the victim/ victim-survivor to obtain appropriate support first to get assistance to deal with the credit provider.
Further reforms are being made to how the credit reporting system operates in situations of domestic abuse. As these reforms are made, we will continue to update this page to reflect any new laws and explain their impact.