Credit Reference Agency
A credit reference agency holds information on most adults in the UK. This helps
lenders to assess the risk of lending to particular people, and reduce the risk
of fraud, by allowing them to look at information held in individual credit files.
The information held by a credit reference agency falls into three main categories:
Public record information - the UK electoral roll (used for checking names
and addresses), county court judgements (CCJs) and Scottish decrees (awarded
against people who have defaulted on debts), and records of bankruptcies, individual
voluntary arrangements and administration or repossession orders.
Credit account information - lenders share information about borrowers by
registering it with a credit reference agency. This can show whether people
have kept their payments up-to-date in the past. It also lets them check whether
people have loans outstanding with other lenders and, if so, whether they have
kept the payments up to date.
Search information - the file also records credit checks carried out by lenders
and a large number of applications made over a short period of time. This could
be seen as an indication of over-commitment, or even fraud.
When you apply for a loan, credit card, bank account or mortgage, the chances
are that the company involved will run a check on you with a credit reference
agency. These agencies check the electoral register to confirm that people live
where they say they do, and report on bad debts, bankruptcies and perhaps on
how well people keep up repayments of existing loans. If any of the information
about you is wrong, it could be extremely damaging. The Data Protection Act 1998
allows you to see this information.
If you are about to apply for a mortgage or other major loan it may be worth
checking in advance to see what information a credit reference agency holds
on you. Correcting any errors in advance could help you avoid problems at a
later stage, when you may not be able to get things put right in time.
When you apply, you should state that your request is limited to personal
information relating to your financial standing. The data controller then has
to reply within seven working days.
Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 you are entitled to have incorrect information
corrected. If the file contains mistakes, the agency must correct them and
tell you what it has done within 28 days. If it refuses, or you are not satisfied
with the amendment, you can send it a note of correction of up to 200 words,
which it must add to your file and send out whenever information about you
is supplied in the future.
If you are having problems obtaining credit as a result of the credit records
of, for example, other family members living at the same address as you, you
can apply to have your credit records "disassociated" from theirs.
You need only make such an application to one of the main credit reference
agency firms. That agency will also notify the others.
If you have problems obtaining credit, it may be useful for you to read "No
Credit" published by the Information Commissioner.
The three main credit reference agency firm's in the United Kingdom are:
Call Credit plc
Consumer Services Team
PO Box 491
Consumer Help Service
PO Box 800
Credit File Advice Service
PO Box 3001