Banks and credit reference agencies are being given nine months to reprogram their computers and erase unnecessary data before a tough code on credit information, under which consumers get new rights, comes into force. Credit reference agencies, who keep records on hundreds of thousands of people, will have to provide instant credit reports to consumers who turn up at their office. The immediate access is to help people who had been refused credit make a quick check to ensure the refusal was not based on inaccurate information. 'People will be able to say: 'Why can't I buy my flat? Why can't I buy my car',' said Privacy Commissioner Stephen Lau Ka-men. The code, gazetted yesterday, comes into force on November 27. Although it does not carry the force of law, any complaint concerning the breaking of the code will weigh against the organisation being complained about. Banks or other credit providers must warn their customers about using a credit agency, and if they refer to credit reports during an application they must tell the customer how to get copies. Customers who default on credit will be warned in advance that their default is being added to a database. There will be controls on information given to debt collectors, controls on data held by credit reference agencies, time limits on data storage, and rules on how to keep their data bases secure. Credit Information Services, owned by a consortium of 16 banks, holds more than one million records on 300,000 people. Almost all major banks - apart from Hongkong and Hang Seng - use the company's data in pooling their records.