It has never been easier to get credit, a fact borne out by the estimated £1 trillion currently owed by Britons. But there is one stumbling block to many seeking to borrow money: what consumers think of as the credit blacklist. In fact, the term 'blacklist' is misleading there is no such thing as a blacklist.
The main credit reference agencies and Equifax, say that they simply provide factual information - there is no good and bad, merely differing levels of creditworthiness by which lenders judge potential customers. When you apply for credit, banks and building societies use their records to make a lending decision. the decision will be based on the lender's credit scoring system. Credit reference agencies do not credit score and have no information on the criteria that banks and the like use.
As a consumer, you have a right to see the information held on you, as agencies are regulated by the Office of Fair trading and have to comply with the Data Protection Act.
Agencies hold a variety of different information on individuals. They use the electoral roll to check that you really live at the address you gave and have records of any County Court Judgments (CCJs) that have been handed down against you (Decrees in Scotland, Enforcements in Northern Ireland). They also hold records of searches made by credit card, loan and mortgage providers, but do not show whether applications were successful or not. Records of existing and previous credit agreements and payments are held, as well as bankruptcies. Shopping around for credit cards should not be recorded on your file unless you sign a credit agreement. But remember every time you apply for a product a lender can search your credit report.
Council tax records, details of Student Loans, bank account details, employment status, salary records and property status are NOT held on file.
CCJs usually arise when an organisation has taken a customer to the small claims court over an unpaid debt. CCJs in England, Wales and Scotland are held on file for six years. If you settle within one month it is cleared and won't appear on your file. If it's satisfied after one month it will still appear on your credit report for 6 years. To satisfy your debt in Scotland, you must write to Registry Trust (173-175 Cleveland Street, London, W1P 5PE) with proof of payment and a search fee. Once you have satisfied your debt, the credit agencies are informed and your file is cleared.
If you have a dispute over an adverse credit rating, firstly contact the provider. Alternatively, contact the agency responsible with a Notice of Dispute and it will investigate the matter. If the information is found to be wrong, your record must be amended and any lenders who
have checked your file in the preceding six months have to be informed of the error. If adverse information is correct but there are good reasons, such as redundancy, to explain your poor rating, you can ask the agency to attach a brief explanatory note to your file.
Mistakes can arise through family members who stay at the same address as you, especially if their first names are similar. If this is the case, simply write to the agency and inform them that you wish to be 'disassociated' with the person. The agency will investigate your claim to ensure you are not merely trying to offload a bad debt on your record. Agencies no longer link your files to family members unless you have a financial connection, such as a joint bank account or mortgage, with them. All the same, mistakes can be made.
If you wish to view your credit file, write to the credit reference agency holding your details.
Experian: A copy of your file costs £2 (£2.50 if you order it by phone). Write to Experian, Consumer Help Service, PO Box 8000, Nottingham NG1 5GX, telephone 0870 241 6212, or visit wwww.experian.co.uk. Whether you order your report online, by telephone, or in writing, you have the option of a single report (£2), four quarterly reports (£8), or twelve monthly reports (£20). However you order your report, it is sent by post.
You can also join Experian's CreditExpert Monitoring Service which costs £5.99 a month and has a 30-day free trial. It provides you with.
- Weekly alerts of significant changes to your Experian credit report. Some of these could alert you to potential fraudulent activity and allow you to take quick, preventative action.
- Unlimited credit reports anytime after your trial membership
- Financial tools and tips to help manage your credit
- An online quarterly newsletter on the latest credit issues
- The convenience of ordering and viewing your National Credit Score from Experian online - exclusive to CreditExpert members.
Equifax: Write to: Credit File Advice Centre, PO Box 1140, Bradford, BD1 5US, 0870 010 0583 or go to www.equifax.co.uk A copy of your credit report costs £11.75. There is an online credit view service, for which there is charge.
Callcredit: Write to Consumer Services Team, PO Box 491, Leeds, LS3 1WZ, enclosing a cheque or postal order for £2. Consumer Helpline: 0870 060 1414, Check the website www.callcredit.plc.uk for more details.
In some circumstances, a credit reference agency will refuse to make amendments to your file. If you disagree with their reasoning, you can seek redress through the Office of the Information Commissioner. It explains how to make a complaint on its website. Write to Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AP, phone 01625 545