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Ask Which? – Why was I charged for a ‘free’ credit check?

Credit check and stethoscope

You ask: I did a free trial credit check on Creditexpert.com… the only thing is, it isn’t free unless you cancel it. When I phoned customer services, I was told I would get a refund, but four days later I had no refund.

I phoned again only to be told my 30 day trial had expired, and I would have to pay the £14.99 fee that had been charged to my credit card, every month, until I cancelled it.

This is very misleading, surely they could have emailed to say my trial period had expired?

Which? credit expert, Martyn Saville, responds:

Credit reference agencies offer these free trials in the hope that you’ll forget to cancel before the trial period ends. Unfortunately, they don’t have to let you know that this period is coming to an end.

However, as you were told that you’d get a refund and this hasn’t materialised, I’d submit a formal complaint to Experian (who run Creditexpert.com). If it still refuses to deal efficiently with your case, you have the option of taking the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Our guide on how to complain about financial services may be useful too.

We think that most monthly subscription services from credit reference agencies offer poor value. Most people would be better off ordering a £2 statutory report on a one-off basis. Read our guide to credit reports for more information.

Have you ever had a credit check that’s cost you more than you thought it would? Or have you had problems with a credit reference agency? Put your questions to Martyn here…


I also had a bad experience with CreditExpert.com: I did remember to cancel my account before the trial was up, and thankfully I also cancelled the payments with the bank, but Credit Expert keep trying to charge me and keep hassling me because the payments bounce. They threaten me monthly with recording a bad debt on my credit file – which is highly ironic – but won’t close the account unless I let them have my ex-directory ‘phone number (which they did not need to open up the account so I sure as **** am not giving it to them to close it) or e-mail them from the account I used to set the trial up – which I can;’t do because that account doesn’t exist any more (though it did when I mailed them to cancel in the first place, a mail which they claim to has “misplaced”).
I’m just ignoring them now but it’s a terrible situation that would worry many people witless and for all I know it could be racking up a massive credit file showing that I am a bad debtor.


Wouldn’t you think that those in power and those regulators would put in the rules that companies must notify the customer when a free trial is coming to an end.
If anything, it is already law that a significant change in terms must be notified to the individual before it can come into effect – in this case a free trial becoming a paid service.
The notification must be made in writing, so email or good old fashioned letter would suffice.

Once again the onus is placed on the individual to complain or claim it back, generating more work for others.

The more I see/hear of regulators, the more they appear out of touch with what is happening on a regular basis. If they upheld the law in the first instance, rather than referring to their own “rules” the consumer/customer/individual would have a far easier life. Our taxes are being paid to the regulators to do this basic task.
Sort it out at the source of the problem instead of passing the buck to the end user. If they are incapable of doing this, then they should step down/close down and let those who can, have a go at it.

Is it time that regulators had members of the public on their boards and regulators “rules” were abandoned in favour of legal precedent, or at the very least, given proper scrutiny by parliament. This way those making these rules would be accountable for when the rules/regulator fails to serve the public, who provide much of the funding regulators are taking from the taxpayer.
One to consider for another topic, would be the alarming number of regulators which, for some bizarre reason, do not fall under the freedom of information act!
Exposure to the public would reveal many instances of failings I believe.


One of the three credit reference agencies, Callcredit, has now announced that it is to launch a new website, called Noddle, offering consumers completely free access to their credit report online. There are more details in this Which? news story: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/06/noddle-website-to-offer-free-credit-reports-256484/

As you’ll see from the story, I’m in two minds – it’s great that consumers will be able to see their credit file for free, but on the other hand Callcredit are clearly not doing this for charitable purposes – they will make money from recommending credit products that match your credit rating. I hope this doesn’t lead to consumers being offered poor-value products from a limited number of providers, or being tempted to take out credit they don’t need or can’t afford.


I get free access to CreditExpert through my home insurance, Sheila’s Wheels (yes, you heard right, home insurance, for a bloke), which I selected also because it was competitively priced.

I guess the onus is on us to remember when to cancel – after all, we have to take some responsibility. However, judging by some of the stories above, consumers are playing ball (by cancelling in time) but the agencies aren’t – and that’s what should be outlawed. They have, effectively, mis-sold a service.

Incidentally, the one time I did trip over was when i logged onto my credit reference account after coming home from the pub and requested my Credit Score. I hadn’t realised there was a £5 charge for this. All completely my fault though: I’d had about 9 pints of lager so probably wasn’t thinking straight. There should be a law against this kind of exploitation of the vulnerable!


It IS terrible these trial services who then make money on people forgetting to cancel before the end of the trial. Is there any way of legislating agianst this ?

kay44 says:
5 July 2011

i have been charged BY CreditExpert without me knowing. thank god the bank spotted this and rang me up after 6 months of paying £14.99 each month without me knowing. i thought this was free. i was locked out of my account and could not cancel it, after ringing CreditExpert they tell me i was up to me to have canceled the account. i received no email informing me that i was being charged at the end of the period. the information on the website was not visible at point of registering. what do i do?

ajwhite says:
11 August 2011

I think that Credit Expert are very deceptive in the way they conduct their business. They are the ‘consumer’ side of Experian but their whole business method seems to be to rely on people not reading their T&Cs carefully, forgetting to cancel, or being confused about their service. This is the sneaky system designed to make money, not help consumers…

1) free trial but you have to cancel yourself or be charged monthly until you cancel.
2) they make the info on cancellation as hard to find as possible. Its buried away on the help menu, and you have to search for it.
3) unlike nearly every other online service, they don’t allow you to cancel online (really, it should be a clickable option in you Membership Details section). Instead you have to call an 0800 no (thanks, i’m on a mobile) – wait interminably, then get some cocky git trying to upsell you, confuse you, scare you and generally talk you out of cancellation.
4) very cleverly, they don’t take payment by either direct debit or standing order – NO – they know thats too easy for YOU to cancel personally. They remove that power and only take debit / credit card details from you. Why? read on
5) if you later cancel, but go back on, you automatically trigger full membership. That means full price every month til you notice it. In my case, i logged in because i wanted to download an old credit report generated during my ‘paid for’ time. I had no idea that constituted ongoing full payment, as i wasn’t wanting an up to date report or my credit score (which you pay again for extra)… £50 later and i now realise i triggered membership just by logging in. Maybe they told me on the cancellation phone call, but to be honest with several months between that and me logging back in, i should be forgiven for not realising. My fault, but they deliberately mislead you IMHO…

Like a lot of services, what the harm of you using your old login and keeping the info you have already paid for, online in a safe place. You should OPT IN to their paid-for services, should you want further current reports or your credit score.

This sneaky practice is disgraceful especially as they dress it up as a consumer tool.

My opinion…

*** They should have an online cancellation.
*** They should allow DD and SO payment methods as options.
*** They should have a warning screen when you go back to a cancelled account, explicitly
telling you that you will be triggering immediate payment plus further monthly payments.

Finally i think the service is pretty poor for what you get anyway. From now on, i’d advise anyone to take advantage of a free report but remember to cancel and never log back in. Then if you want your report, you have a statutory right to ask Experian and Equifax for your credit report for £2 – you’ll get the same info.

The credit scoring is NOT what banks or lenders will score you. Its their own system. All lenders have their own weightings and ways of measuring. You could have a credit score of 985 and still get turned down by Barclaycard (happened to me).

Don’t believe me have a look on Consumer Action Group and Moneysavingexpert forums, they are full of bad reports on Credit Expert.

Anyway this is my experience, hope it helps the unwary.

Mordenman says:
12 September 2011

I have just cancelled my free trial with Credit expert. I only registered because they are used by Travelex Send Money Now whose system failed miserably because their website refuses to let you put your own address down. They insist on a search from house number and postcode and will not let you correct the result. Why bother ? Because Credit Expert’s search produces a different address format which also is impossible for you to correct. Net result….. a mismatch which stops the process dead. No one can help on the phone …. “Its a live system” “can;t change it” I live in darkest Dorset in a cottage that was once two dwellings. The address can be expressed in more than one way. Credit Expert claim that they cannot relate more than one variation of the address to the same location. I suggst this is exactly what they should be able to do, otherwise they are a waste of space … and certainly money. I;ve given up with both of them, think I’ll use Paypal !