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How easy is it to crunch the numbers on your credit report?

Stethoscope on credit card

Maintaining a healthy credit profile is vital to getting the financial products you need. But our research suggests that accessing and understanding your credit report is not as simple as you might expect.

Your credit report is essentially the ‘footprint’ left by your use of credit. The information it contains plays a big part in determining whether or not you can get a mortgage, loan or even a bank account.

Yet despite their importance, 63% of the general public have never checked their credit report.

Ordering your £2 credit report

We asked 81 people to order their £2 statutory reports from each of the three UK credit reference agencies – Callcredit, Equifax and Experian.

If you want to view your Experian report online you’ll have to wait for a passcode to be sent in the post. Both Equifax and Callcredit allow you to view your report online immediately, providing they can verify your identity.

But accessing online credit reports with Callcredit proved virtually impossible. 44 researchers who tried to do so, only two were successful. Callcredit has since told us it had taken down its online system during the time when we were carrying out our research, but this was not made clear on its website.

For some, navigating the reports proved just as challenging as getting hold of them. Less than half of our researchers said seeing their statutory reports had given them a better understanding of their credit worthiness.

The overwhelming majority of people (95%) said they’d find it helpful if all three credit reference agencies used the same format for their statutory credit reports.

Resolving credit report problems

Around a third of our researchers found a problem or entry they disputed on their credit report. In two cases (both Equifax), our researchers were told their issues couldn’t be resolved because they had ordered their reports more than 30 days before.

You can contact the lender or credit reference agency to correct a mistake. Agencies have 28 days from your request to tell you if it has removed the entry, amended it or taken no action.

But Callcredit took 41 days to inform one researcher that it would be removing an incorrect linked address (18 days to request necessary information, and 23 days following that to notify what action it would be taking).

Have you ever requested your £2 credit report? How easy was it to access and understand? And if you’ve ever found a mistake on your report, how did you find the process of getting this corrected?

Comments
Profile photo of langworthy
Member

No problem getting one but a real injury (it cost me money and time) and insult when I had to prove to them that their transcriber had misaligned the printed copy of the electoral roll (they were too cheapskate to buy the electronic version) and therefore it appeared that I had changed my name.

It cost me time, money and a visit to the local authority to put right their incompetent error.

By our lady shysters.

Profile photo of terfar
Member

No problem getting them either.

But IMHO, this information is MY PRIVATE information, it should be FREE for me to check and the compnies should PAY ME to pass on the information.

This information is about our private lives and the Data Protection Act should cover the collection and dissemination of all private information.

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Spot on. It astounds me that no one, not even Which?, seems to be up in arms about these companies. They’re private agencies with a get-out-of-jail-free card over the Data Protection Act. They can get information on you from anyone and they don’t have to check its accuracy in any way whatsoever.

We are the product not the customer, and yet we have to pay them to find out what they’re saying about us, and if we wish to challenge anything we get something about the size of a Tweet to register it.

Far from paying for it, they should be obliged to send us details of everything they post about us before they post it and give us equal billing to refute or explain the entry if we so desire. They should at the very least be made legally responsible for any misinformation they publish.

Member
Highlander says:
23 May 2014

I obtained reports without difficulty but found that despite living alone I had on my file a man with the same date of birth and almost the same name. He has debts in excess of £100,000 and, while two of the reference agencies have now removed him from my file, Callcredit has not responded after over 40 days and I have referred them to the Information Commissioner. The Credit Reference Agencies and the debt recovery firm who placed his details on my file all blame 3rd parties. Do they have no responsibility to ensure the information they record is correct?

Member
Rossiniolo says:
24 May 2014

I couldn’t agree more with the article in Which? (June/p44). Getting access to one’s statutory credit report is a confusing process. It took me over an hour online to locate, pay for, and download two of them. The third – Experian – apparently needs to be emailed in a couple days time and cannot be seen immediately (they took my payment immediately). Why do we have to go 3 different organisations for this information? Why do they make the process so tortuous and do everything they can to hide the £2 report and steer you toward their paid for reports? And why are the reports all formatted differently and so poorly laid out so as to make understanding them difficult? I hope Which? will take this up with the powers that be and get this utter muddle sorted out. It is not fit for the twenty-first century.

Profile photo of Jenny Ross
Member

Thanks for your feedback Rossiniolo – sorry to hear that getting hold of your reports was such a frustrating experience. Unfortunately many of our researchers encountered similar problems, as outlined in the recent article. We’ve expressed concerns in the past that the £2 reports aren’t easy enough to find on the credit reference agencies’ websites. While things seem to have improved on this front, many researchers agreed with you that the reports aren’t very user-friendly in terms of their layout and said they would find it helpful if there was a consistent format across all three agencies. Rest assured we’ll continue to monitor progress in this area and do all we can to bring about a more positive consumer experience.

Profile photo of terfar
Member

Hi Jenny

Perhaps the biggest improvement would be an overall rating that is simple common to all the agencies and easy to understand. Perhaps something like the ratings agencies like Standard and Poor use:

AAA, AAB, ABB, BBB down to Junk, ‘detain them immediately’ status.

Profile photo of Jenny Ross
Member

Hi Terfar – yes, I’m sure a universal rating would be welcomed by many people, as well as a consistent format. But of course, this rating is only an indication of your credit worthiness as lenders use their own criteria to assess applications.

It was interesting to find that the vast majority of our researchers were expecting to see a numerical rating included on their statutory reports, but in fact this is only provided if you sign up to an agency’s premium subscription service.

Member
Mizenmast says:
25 May 2014

Having read the article in the June edition of Which?, I decided to obtain my Statutory Credit Report from the three main credit agencies. The easiest to obtain on line was that from Call Credit as it required little other than the input of basic data. The report was quickly available to view online but was not capable of being downloaded as a PDF file – it could only be printed. This is a definite disadvantage. The Equifax application was more complicated in that a user account had first to be set up – just a name and password – before the entry of the individual’s data. Finding the correct pick for the statutory report was also less easy than Call Credit. The positive aspect of this report was that it could be downloaded and retained as a PDF file. The Experian report was easy to request but has the great disadvantage of having to wait days for a security access code to arrive in the post. The reports from the different agencies are in different formats but I fail to see why they appear to be confusing to anyone with a basic understanding of financial matters. I’m not sure how the 81 researchers were selected but it would appear that some of them must not have a great deal of experience in computer usage.

Profile photo of Jenny Ross
Member

Hi Mizenmast – thanks for your feedback. I’m glad to hear that the article prompted you to check your reports and that you didn’t have too much trouble getting hold of them. Experian could certainly make things easier for customers by allowing immediate online access and has told us that it’s working on this. As for the reports themselves, many researchers said they thought there is room for improvement when it comes to the way information is presented – for example, by adding clearer headings for different sections. The information wasn’t really a source of confusion in itself, but many felt that more could be done to explain the significance of the data – ie what it means in terms of your credit worthiness. The 81 researchers were of a variety of ages and backgrounds, so I’m not sure whether experience in computer usage would have had much of an influence on the type of feedback we received.

Member
Sophie says:
29 May 2014

Callcredit has never been able to provide me with online access. 5 paper reports over 3 years all had to be requested via a form I had to print out and send off – their online system is obviously always “down” for me!

Member
gflower says:
25 September 2014

No difficulty in getting at my (their) credit rating (of me).
I was amused and slightly annoyed that although I had a 99% rating I had one negative rating – this was due, they noted, to the low amount of potential credit I had on my master card . They attributed this low amount to the card issuer not granting me more credit, whereas I had asked for a much lower limit than they initially offered me as I wanted to protect myself from higher loss had a fraud been perpetrated on my account.
Should I complain to the credit agency – to whom I pay a monthly fee?

Profile photo of terfar
Member

Hardly worth the effort. Remember that you are dealing with financial lowlifes that make money from YOUR personal information. They’ll probably agree to up your rating for that point but knock 10 points off for being a PIA!

Member
SheilaE says:
9 July 2016

I’ve just logged on to Equifax’s website to do an annual check on my credit report, and they seem to have come up with yet another scam to earn more money from OUR data. Instead of charging £2 for a basic report, we can access it for free by signing up to a monthly charge of £9.95! Of course, if we cancel within 30 days we don’t have to pay a thing, but I’m sure they’re relying on people forgetting, not to mention the number of companies that don’t get round to processing cancellations quickly enough! And they don’t mention whether we can keep doing this – sign up then cancel to get a free report – or whether it’s a one-off. Frankly, I preferred the £2 option – at least it was honest, even if we were still paying to see OUR data. Come on, Which, take this issue up now and campaign to change the law so that we can access all the data held on us for FREE whenever we need to. And please also publicise this new scam so that others are aware of it.