A survey of nearly 1,000 New Zealanders found that most respondents could name one or none of the credit factors that companies are allowed to collect about them.

The poll conducted in June by TNS Global for Dun & Bradstreet was released Wednesday. The findings show that consumers are confused about what credit information companies can gather under new privacy rules, with some believing it includes crimes and religion and others not understanding whether they have a credit history at all. The findings come as companies in the country begin collecting information about missed and late bill payments and total borrowing under looser privacy rules.

More than 30% thought a criminal record could be included and a few believed companies could keep medical or religious details on their credit file. The lack of knowledge was alarming, said D&B officials, and could put people in a precarious position if it hurt their credit rating.

An easing of privacy rules means companies that offer consumer credit - such as banks, finance companies, telcos, electricity and gas and insurance companies - can collect and swap information about borrowing and repayments, including people's total credit and any late payments and defaults.

Four in 10 people surveyed did not know they had a credit record - although credit records were kept before the privacy rule change. Criminal, medical and religious information is not included.

After a two-year review, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff announced a change to the Credit Reporting Privacy Code, which took place on April 1.

Credit agencies including Veda and D&B will compile records using information from companies such as banks, who have been working out a deal to swap people's credit details with their competitors under umbrella group the Retail Credit Association.

Lenders have to notify customers before they start collecting the added information, which they can hold for up to two years. Westpac, Kiwibank and finance company GE have done this, and are expected to be followed by other banks and lenders.

Telcos, power and insurance companies have the option to join in later. Payment data should start being shared late this year or in early 2013, but companies can gather histories before that as long as they have notified customers.

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