When assessing whether applicants are worthy of credit, lenders draw on pools of information to help ensure they only lend to people who are likely to repay them. Perhaps the most important of these pieces of information is the credit file of the applicant.
In the UK the job of pooling financial information and maintaining credit files is undertaken by three different competing credit reference agencies. Nearly all UK adults have a credit rating produced by at least one of the three agencies. Credit ratings are calculated by assessing the repayment history, amount of available credit, number of applications, address history and other information regarding applicants.
All banks, building societies and other lenders use at least one of these organisations to check whether applicants are suitable borrowers, based on their credit rating.
Who are the credit reference agencies?
There are three credit reference agencies which operate in the UK.
NG2 Business Park
0844 481 8000
Experian offers 3 options: Free credit score for life, access to your credit report and UK-based call centre help for £14.99 (after a 30 day free trial), and a statutory credit report for a one-off payment of £2.
Credit File Advice Centre
PO Box 1140
0844 335 0550
Equifax offers 2 options: a credit report and score for £14.95 a month (after a 30 day free trial) and a statutory credit report for a one-off payment of £2.
One Park Lane
0113 388 4300
Callcredit offers 2 options: Free credit report and score for life, and a statutory credit report for a one-off payment of £2. The credit report from Callcredit is provided using a service called Noddle. However, being the smallest of the three, it is advised that individuals look at their report from either Equifax or Experian as well.
What do credit reference agencies do?
Credit reference agencies compile all sorts of personal and financial data provided by lenders and from elsewhere in the public domain. They use all this information to calculate a credit rating. Each agency has their own scoring system, each producing different results.
Credit reference agencies do not have a ‘blacklist’ of people with a bad credit history, nor a ‘blacklist of addresses, and credit reference agencies do not advise lenders whether to accept or reject applications.
Credit ratings and files are simply designed to help banks, building societies, credit card companies and other lenders gain an insight into an individual’s credit history. The lenders use this information and apply bespoke algorithms to assess any lending risk and decide whether to offer applicants credit and at what rate.
What do credit reference agencies know?
Credit reference agencies hold a lot of personal information, which is taken from data held by lenders and information in the public domain.
What are your rights?
Individuals have the right to access the data held on their credit file for a maximum fee of £2. However, all three credit reference agencies allow consumers to view their file online for free, although Experian and Equifax both charge a fee after the trial period.
When writing to any of the agencies to request a copy of a credit report, individuals must include:
The agency has seven working days from receipt of the request to provide a copy of the credit file. However, in some cases, the agency will need further information, such as proof of name and address, before they can send the file. This is to help prevent fraud.
The Data Protection Act 1998 requires all data on credit files to be accurate and relevant, as mistakes and inconsistencies could result in individuals being unfairly refused credit.
If you find that any of the information on your credit report is incorrect, it is essential that you report it to the credit reference agency. In some cases they will be able to make the amendments, but sometimes the error is with the lender, meaning it will have to be changed by them before it can be changed on the file.