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Fancy nosing into my business

05.09.2002 (11.03.2003)

Gives you the information that companys use to make decisions about you

Can be beaucratic

Recommendable Yes:

29 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
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I have recently decided to take the final step in being a grown up. The big one, the scary one, you know what Iím talking aboutÖ


Yep, we have decided that now is the time to sign our life away and spend the next twenty-five years paying of thousands upon thousands of pounds to Ďder managementí

Now when you apply for a mortgage, indeed when you apply for most credit, your credit file will be checked. The company will assess you according to the information provided on your credit file in addition to the information you provide.

However, sometimes you get turned down, when this happens the company will tell you what credit referencing agency they have used and refer you to them for further information.

Such a thing has happened to me on a number of occasions so I have recently obtained a copy of my credit file. As I have only had dealing with the credit reference agency Experian this opinion will focus on them, however a large proportion of what I write applies to the other main reference agency Equifax.

Iím confused, whatís a credit reference agency?

Well a credit reference agency provides a service to people who you want credit from, from mortgage lenders to mobile phone companies.

The agency will provide the company with a copy of your credit file, which contains such information as your addresses, if you are registered to vote, your payment history on credit accounts and any searches other companies may have made on you.

They will also have details about any debt management programs you may have entered into (e.g. Bains & Earnsít) any arrangements you have made with a lender to pay lower amounts and any other address addresses you have been linked to.

Oh right, so how do they get all this information?

Well, some information is taken from the electoral role, such as your current address and your voting status. Your addresses for the last six years will be recorded.

Other information is provided by the very people who use the agency, they will log your account history with the agency and provide a record of your history of payments (if you pay on time, a little late or have not paid at all). They also provide details if movements in addresses. This information is kept for six years.

Also, every time youíre credit file is searched by a company a record of this will be made on your file. These records are kept for 12 months.

So, can anyone look at my file?

No, for a company to sweep your file you must give them permission. More often than not it is written into the small print of an application for credit or in the terms and conditions before you press the submit button on an online application.

Of course you can obtain a copy of your file. For the nominal fee of £2 you can write to Experian (and Equifax) giving your name, address for the last three years and your date of birth. Alternatively you can apply online using a debit or credit card.

With your credit file you will get an information booklet detailing what all the entries mean and what you can do if you do not agree with them.

Does the Credit reference agency give me a score then?

Most companies will apply a technique called credit scoring to decide if they want to offer your credit.
Credit scoring is the process of taking your credit file and applying it to a series of questions, to give you an overall credit score. If you meet a pre-prescribed score you will be offered credit, if not you wont.

The credit reference company doe not provide this score, they only provide the factual information the hold about you, no more no less.

It could be that your file shows nothing out of the ordinary and the reason you failed the credit scoring was simply because you failed to meet the demographic profile that that particular company prefers to deal with.

My record says Iím not on the electoral role, what do I do?

Oh dear, that is a problem.

The referencing agency gets a copy of the electoral role once a year and they are notorious for taking so long to update their records that by the time its done its already out of date.

But donít panic.

To get your file updated with your electoral roll information you will need to do one of two things:
Keep your polling card and send it to the agency. This is an official document and the agency should accept it and update your records. However we donít get polling cards all that often so the other option is to get a letter from your council confirming you are on the electoral role, be warned though, some councils will make a charge for doing this.

Another alternative is to provide the company your are applying for credit with prove that your are living at your address, a council tax bill for example, some will accept it some wont but thereís no harm in trying.

My file says I have a default, whatís that?

A company will register a default against you if you have broken your credit agreement and failed to repay the outstanding credit.

Defaults stay on your file for six years after they have been settled (paid off) and can have a rather adverse effect on your ability to obtain credit.

I found this when applying for an agreement in principle on a mortgage and the company told me I had been rejected because I had a default against me. I couldnít for the life of me think what it may be as I pay everything not just on time, but usually early.

I obtained a copy of my file and found that it appeared to be an old bank account I had with the Abby National, which I thought had been closed before I last moved house. It seemed that not only had it not been closed but, a series of bank charges had taken overdrawn and as I had moved they could not contact me.

I cases like this, when you believe an entry is wrong, the only way you can have in removed is to deal with the credit provider. I wrote to the Abby National and managed to get my default removed quite quickly, much to my surprise, however you may not have the same luck.

The reference agency is not able to remove the entry unless you can prove that it is wrong, you are likely to suffer because of it and the credit provider will not make the change. If the decision that the agency make does not satisfy you, you can appeal to the information commissioner, Experian will give you details on how to do this.

I have a CCJ, whatís this? What can I do?

A CCJ is where a credit provider has had a court judgement made against you for non-payment, you do not have to go to court to get one of these.

If you think that the CCJ has been recorded wrongly you should contact the county court quoting the case number on your file. If it is wrong the court will make the alteration.

If you have satisfied the conditions of the CCJ and the file does not reflect this you should provide the agency with a copy of the Certificate of Satisfaction (you may have to pay for a copy of this) from the county court.

Details of CCJ's are kept six years from the date of the judgement, weather you settle or not.

Ok, so Iíve been a bit naughty in the past, but there was a really good reason.

Well Experian will allow you to add a statement (notice of correction) of up to 200 words to explain something on your file. They will include your statement providing it not frivolous of defamatory.

The statement will then be seen by anyone who searches your file in future.

There are someone elseís details on my file!

No, itís not a big mistake.

These are known as linked persons, people with whom you have been linked either through financial dealings or family ties.

If you have no financial connection with these people you can apply to be disassociated with them and they will no longer appear with your information.

So, how do I get hold of these people?

You can write to them:

Customer Help Service
PO Box 8000
NG1 5Gx

You can phone them: 0870 241 6212

Email them: customer.helpservice@uk.experian.com

Or for more information visit their very informative web site: www.experian.co.uk (where you can apply for a copy of your file)

Overall I found their service to be excellent, I have spoken to them a number of times on the phone and, apart from the amount of time I have to spend on hold, I cannot fault them. The customer services staff are friendly, personable and informative.

Letters and file copies arrive within a couple of days of speaking to them and they really do seem to make the effort to be helpful, I imagine they are used to dealing with stressed out people.

Anything else?

Well yesÖ

Remember the data protection act states that we have the right not to have major decisions about us made by purely automated means. As much credit scoring is done this way you may be able to argue your way in through the door. Most of the time it probably wont work, but give it a go, the worst they can say is no. Itís worked for me a couple of times, but I am very good at arguing.

Credit repair companies are not the answer, they canít do anything that you canít do for yourself and sometimes they can even make things worse.

Patience, you need patience when dealing with things like this. I know you want it done right away but we are dealing with snail mail here and so everything takes a little longer.

As for snail mail always get things in writing, it may take longer but it gives you cast iron proof of everything. The reference agency will also only accept original copies of documents.

Well erm, thatís the end of my very long, boring, serious op.

Gosh, I am grown up arenít I?

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Comments about this review »

mizzame 09.04.2003 21:04

Intersting op! Nice one Mx

weekellso 14.03.2003 12:12

Very informative op! Well done :-)

Kirsty1 12.03.2003 14:26

Great op here. Things have improved since the bad old days of complete secrecy about credit but the whole "big brother" thing does scare me. It's interesting to know that people can add 200 words explanation if necessary. Kirsty

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This review of Experian has been rated:

"very helpful" by (99%):

  1. asterion
  2. Nadiajane
  3. nafan

and 66 other members

"helpful" by (1%):

  1. Peter00

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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