"Argentina`s Creditworthiness Databases Must Remove Names of Crisis-Hit Debtors". by David Haskel. (Reproduced with permission from Privacy & Security Law Report. Volume 7, Number 2, January, 2008. Copyright 2008 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.).

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentina's Congress has introduced an amendment to the Personal Data Protection Law whereby people who took on debt during a recent financial crisis and have since repaid it or are ready to make a formal commitment to repay it cannot be named in credit information databases.

The change was implemented through Law 26343 published in the Official Gazette Jan. 8, which added a new article to the Personal Data Protection Act (Law 25326) in order to protect thousands of people who failed to meet their commitments during Argentina's worst financial debacle on record.

Credit information service databases must eliminate or omit the future registry of all data referring to commitments and ratings associated with individual or organizational persons whose commercial commitments fell in arrears from Jan. 1, 2000 to Dec. 10, 2003, provided those debts were canceled or brought under control "at the time this law is enacted or within 180 days of its enactment," new Art. 47 said.

Under Law 25326, which was enacted in 2000, creditworthiness databases, akin to Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion in the United States, can keep the names of outstanding debtors for five years and of those who cancelled their arrears for another two years, as long as they make clear that the debt was paid off.

Redressing Unfair Situation

The new amendment leaves out of the "black list" legions of people who took on debt during Argentina's economic meltdown and either repaid it recently or are prepared to make a pledge to pay it within the next six months.

The change seeks to redress an unfair situation, brought on by the fact that those who fell into arrears in, for example, 2001, and never paid back their debts are by now out of the databases, while those prepared to honor their old commitments would automatically trigger a fresh, two-year entry into the databases, explained Gustavo Tanus, an attorney specializing in Internet and data protection legislation.

"This amendment is some sort of incentive for those willing to pay," he told BNA Jan. 10. "It wipes out all traces of the debt. Without it, anyone deciding to pay now would get two more years on the databases."

The legislation was promoted by Congresswoman Mercedes Marco del Pont, who was appointed Jan. 9 as head of the state-owned Banco de la Nacion, Argentina's largest bank in terms of assets, said Tanus, who runs a Web site on data protection issues, http://www.protecciondedatos.com.ar/

By David Haskel