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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.

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 !

Rocky Khosla says:
12 November 2011

I took out this credit expert about 18 months ago based on me and my wife thinking it was a free 30 days trial we went on holiday nearing the end of the trial when we got back i tried to cancel i was put on hold on our phone some times for about 45 minuits.
We are elderly people the were asking us questions about passwords our parents detials for gods sake we are 53 year olds our memory is not as sharp as the questions they were asking.
They would not cancel so the bank advised me to cancel my visa card and get a new one
They started taking money out even with new card detials
Eventualy barclays card services got involved they are still taking money out they have ignored all requests even with barclays card services
£287.64 is the amount i have paid for a free service
Nothing on there website alowes you to cancell
Will they return this money to me

Tony Gosling says:
14 November 2011

I have found CreditExpert to be a rip-off. As well as their very misleading sign-up for the “free” service which then charges you and includes the line “Why do we need your credit card details?Your card is used to verify your identify details. Don’t worry, your card will not be charged for your membership”. Then after 30 days it is.

After holding on to the phone I cancelled the service as it didn’t tell me anything useful and you have to pay extra to actually get useful information. They continued to bill me for over a year after I cancelled. During the whole time I did not receive a single credit report or email from them.
When I tried to cancel by phone and email said that I didn’t have an account – yet they still took money from my credit card even after I complained in writing AND refused to refund. Ironically given they claim the credit card info is used for identification they still couldn’t find out why they were billing me even after I sent them a credit card statement – eventually needed date of birth as well.

I took out a free trial ahead of applying for a mortgage. I decided to keep with it until we sorted out the mortgage, as I thought it would be useful to have info of alerts in case anything unusual slipped in. Apparently, after a few phone calls to them asking why I’m not being alerted of credit checks that have been completed, email alerts can take up to 7 days to come through on the account. Not exactly the service I thought I was signing up for. Hopefully we will complete in the next few weeks, so I shall be cancelling the service shortly after that. All in all, not a particularly helpful product and didn’t really do what I thought it said on the tin.

Dan Newton says:
14 February 2012

I have just got off the phone with Credit Expert and I cannot believe the situation. I was applying for a credit card through Natwest in december and they recomended I get a free credit report through Experian first. I followed the process and got my free credit report and thought nothing more of it. Realised today I’ve paid out 2 months membership since then and I am appalled. First with the lack of notifications that I was to pay a monthly fee and also the terrible customer service I received on the phone. Constantly being lead round in circles until eventually I was told i would be contacted in 3 working days (yeah right). I don’t know how long they have got away with this but frankly it is mental how a company can get away with having an opt out membership after a 30 day trial rather than an opt in system. Bearing in mind of course this is a company thats set out to try and save you money.

Fed Up says:
25 February 2012

Does anyone know who regulates these credit reference agencies? I am having an on-going nightmare with Experian, which has been on-going for weeks now. Contacting customer service by phone and email has not progressed things in the right direction, my requests for a name and address of someone of authority I can write to have fallen on deaf ears. I have even emailed the CEO who has refused to acknowledge or respond to the problems I’m having. As a paying member I would at least appreciate the courtesy of a response.

Louise Britton says:
1 March 2012

I am extremely disappointed at the sales tactics of this Company. As a mortgage adviser I take my credit file very seriously and didn’t mind paying a monthly subscription of £6.99 when I moved house just for the peace of mind of knowing that my personal details/identity weren’t being used by anyone else. After weighing up the annual cost of £83.88 and my details not having changed for years I decided it was no longer necessary and phoned them in November 2010 to cancel my subscription. The operator was very forceful and made it very difficult for me to cancel without my being extremely rude and in the end I agreed to take another 12 months at the reduced cost of £3.49 a month. I have now realised that they have reverted back to taking the £6.99 a month. Whilst this is legal I would have thought that I would have received some kind of prior notification. Had I paid by direct debit then they would have had to notify me to inform me of the increased payments and of course I would have been able to cancel a direct debit or standing order. I believe that they deliberately take card payments because it is difficult to cancel such payments and they are not bound by the direct debit guarantee. After the experience of the double glazing type salesperson I spoke to when I tried to cancel last time I decided to email them instead. Yesterday I provided the reference numbers that they quote and sent an email to membership@creditexpert.co.uk from the email address known to them making it perfectly clear that I wished to cancel my subscription. I have today received another email to say that I need to ring them in order to:
*Take you through our security checks to make sure we are taking every step to protect your identity.
*Resolve any issues that you have had.
*Gain your feedback about the service.
*Help you with any credit report issues that you may have.
I have no intention of ringing them to be ‘sold’ to and since only the first point is valid I have sent a further email today advising them that since I have requested this by written email and from the verified email address that I expect my subscription to be cancelled with immediate effect and that they no longer have my authority to debit my account. I have said that I will provide any further verification they require by email and await their reply!!!
If they weren’t quite so aggressive then I would have just phoned them……………….

Vossy says:
13 August 2012

I have just got a £76 refund from Experian for the months they have been taking £14.99 out of my account. I got my free report and then instantly e-mailed them my cancellation details, the only thing I forgot was my 8 digit reference number. The requested this by e-mail to cancel it, which I sent. Today when I phoned, they said I couldn’t have cancelled it because you can’t cancel by e-mail and you have to phone. Was going to give up and put it down to experience until I re-read the e-mails I had sent and they had responded to which stated they would cancel it when I sent the 8 digit reference number through to them. I sent it to the wrong e-mail (customer services, instead of account cancellation) which was my fault, but as I pointed out, they should have e-mailed me back pointing out my mistake. After an hour of debate, they conceded and refunded me all the money they had taken a small victory

Yes exactly, this was happened to me and my uncle’s family. Once we are registered to a free trial for 30 days the system automatically assigning us for the agreement where we should cancel our membership after 30 days else our direct debit will be taken out monthly 14.99. One I call the customer service they are unable to help us to refund the money and saying that I had accepted the terms and condition once registering for the free trial. That means the Credit Expert company is having a tactic to earn from misleading agreements which are not clear to most of the customers. This company should sued from the United Kingdom which like for the companies sells misleading PPI (Payment Protection Insurance).

l williams says:
23 November 2012

hello i signed up for free credit check with call credit experian on 20 of October 2012 i cancel my membership on the 28 of October 2012 i received e mail stating that my account is cancelled then on 21 of November receved a letter from my bank stating that i was £13 49 over drawn i dont use the account so i phoned bank nd was informed that experian had taken £14 99 out of my account i called them and was told that they cannot see how or why they charged me and would rec a refund when i asked about the charges on my account due to them taking payment they said talk to your bank grrrrrrr i never been overdrawn in my bank ever as i do not have a overdraft facility on my account and never asked for one as i never use the account what can i do next pleas could you advise mr williams

Jef Balham says:
26 January 2013

I just checked my Bank account and noticed my credit expert membership has gone up from £6.99 to £9.99 a 50% increase and £37 odd extra a year. Credit Expert cancellations said they sent out an email to inform me. I never received this email (I log all my creditexpert emails so there was no way it could have gone into spam.) I did receive a Welcome to new membership benefits email. Creditexpert had added Web monitoring ( a service that is supposed to monitor your details on the web – I cannot technically see how they can do this and alert of changes) and better reports. If you scroll to the very bottom of the email it says the New membership fee of £9.99 will be deducted on the next payment. That was just 4 days later. They did not provide a cooling off period or option to cancel membership.

I am really shocked that they hide this dramatic price rise disguised as new membership features.

I have written to their Customer complaints team.

I remind readers that there is Noodle a free service that which has featured. Plus sometimes banks offer Credit monitoring for free as part of their premium packages i.e. Lloyds offer ID Aware for free.

Angela White says:
18 February 2016

Can you help? I was looking for a loan on the web yesterday (17th Feb) where they ask for all details including bank details. Have just checked by bank account today (18th Feb) and £59.70 has been taken by a company called Credit Cove. I have rang them today and asked why they have taken money when I did not authorise or sign up to this and they say I did. I definately did not give bank details to this company or permission to take any money. they will cancel they say but will only refund £30.00. How can this happen when applying for a loan.

I am already signed up to noddle free so why would I agree to another company who charge.

Hi there I have exactly the same problem was looking for loans online…never got one in the end but then I discovered I has been charged £59.70 by a company called credit cove. I certainly never signed up for that! I am currently on the phone to my bank who has put me through to the fraud department so I’m hoping I can get it back as apparantly it’s supposed to go out 10 times a month at that price! It’s ridiculous do they actually think someone would sign up to that going out at £59.70 let alone 10 times a month!

Did you manage to get your banks fraud dept to accept you hadn’t signed up for it? I went through the debit card dispute/bank fraud dept & in the end Lloyds said they didn’t accept it as a fraudulent charge because Credit Cove provided them with my name & address to “prove” I’d signed with them. I can name dozens of companies who have access to my name & address. Does this mean that if someone working at my utility company, or for one of the online shopping companies, the tax office, my employer or any other company (most of whom also have access to my bank details) decided for some unknown reason to take out this service in my name that I would have “given my consent” – I don’t think so! Credit Cove then decided that I had taken it out by going directly onto their website at 3 o’clock in the morning (as if) & giving them “35 individual pieces of information” about myself. This would be difficult to do as I’d never even heard of them before they took £59.70 from my account without my permission. They also say that as part of the application they sent me 4 emails with t&cs, security codes, privacy policy, etc (no they didn’t). I have offered to show them my internet & email history to prove this but they’ve failed to respond. I have therefore decided to take this to the financial ombudsman & am also considering taking it to the police fraud team because I believe this payment was fraudulently taken by someone misusing my details to sign me up to a service without my permission. I’ve also just had a thought about my banks argument of ‘how did they get my details if I didn’t give them’ & it occurs to me that an easy way to get people’s bank details might be to run a credit check on them – would it be possible for an unethical company to get your name & address from somewhere like the electoral reg, use it to run a check without your knowledge & get hold of the details of any bank accounts/loans that way. I’m not saying that that is what happened, just wondering if in a vastly underregulated industry something like this might happen/has ever happened – if so any tips on how to protect against it?