Credit Reference Agencies
WHO ARE THE CREDIT REFERENCE AGENCIES AND HOW CAN I CONTACT THEM?
There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK who deal with people’s personal data.
Each is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and authorised to conduct business as a credit reference agency.
Credit reference agency
|Callcredit Limited||Post: Callcredit Information Group, One Park Land, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1EP
Web Address: www.callcredit.co.uk/consumer-solutions/contact-us
Phone: 0330 024 7574
|Equifax Limited||Post: Equifax Ltd, Customer Service Centre PO Box 10036, Leicester, LE3 4FS
Phone: 0333 321 4043 or 0800 014 2955
|Experian Limited||Post: Experian, PO BOX 9000, Nottingham, NG80 7WF
Phone: 0344 481 0800 or 0800 013 8888
WHAT DO CREDIT REFERENCE AGENCIES USE PERSONAL DATA FOR?
(a) CREDIT REFERENCE AGENCY PROCESSING
Credit reporting and affordability checks
Each CRA uses the data it gathers to provide credit reporting services to its clients.
Organisations use credit reporting services to see the financial position of people and businesses. For example, a lender or creditor may check with a credit reference agency when an individual or business applies for credit and the lender or creditor needs to make a credit decision taking into account that person or business’s credit history.
Affordability checks help organisations understand whether people applying for credit or financial products (like loans) are likely to afford the repayments.
These activities help promote responsible lending, prevent people and businesses from getting into more debt than they can afford, and reduce the amount of unrecoverable debt and insolvencies.
Verifying data like identity, age and residence, and preventing and detecting criminal activity, fraud and money laundering
The CRAs also use bureau data to provide verification, crime prevention and detection services to their clients, as well as fraud and anti-money-laundering services. For example:
- When a person applies to an organisation for a product or service, the organisation might ask them to answer questions about themselves, and then check the answers against the data held by the CRAs to see if they’re correct. This helps confirm the person they are dealing with is not trying to commit identity theft or any other kind of fraud.
- Where some products and services are only available to people of a certain age, organisations can check whether the person they’re dealing with is eligible by searching the CRAs databases.
- If a person applies for credit the lender or creditor might check the personal data that person gives them against the personal data held by CRAs to try and prevent fraud.
- Government and quasi-government bodies can use data held by CRAs to check whether people are entitled to certain benefits and to help recover unpaid taxes, overpaid benefits and similar debts.
CRAs supply information including personal data to their clients for account management, which is the ongoing maintenance of the client organisation’s relationship with its customers. This could include activities designed to support:
- data accuracy (such as data cleansing – where bureau data can be used to clean or update lender data. This might involve checks that data is in the right format or fields, or to correct spelling errors);
- clients’ ongoing account management activities. (For example, data sharing with lenders and creditors so clients can make decisions relating to credit limit adjustments, transaction authorisations, and to identify and manage the accounts of customers at risk, in early stress, in arrears, or going through a debt collection process, or to confirm that assets are connected to the right person).
Tracing and debt recovery
CRAs provide services that allow organisations to use bureau data to trace people who’ve moved. Each CRA also offers a service that allows people to be reunited with assets (like an old dormant savings account they’ve lost contact with)
CRAs may also use personal data to support debt recovery and debtor tracing. An example of a tracing activity could be when a person owes money and moves to a new house without telling the creditor where they’ve gone. The creditor may need help finding that person to claim back what they’re owed. CRAs help find missing debtors by providing creditors with updated addresses and contact details.
CRAs can use some personal data to screen people out of marketing lists. For example, where a person’s financial history suggests they’re unlikely to be accepted for or afford a particular product, the relevant organisation can use that data to opt out of sending them information about that product. This helps stop people receiving irrelevant marketing and saves organisations the costs of inappropriate marketing and unsuccessful applications.
The data isn’t used to identify, select and send marketing materials to potential new customers.
Statistical analysis, analytics and profiling
CRAs can use and allow the use of personal data for statistical analysis and analytics purposes, for example, to create scorecards, models and variables in connection with the assessment of credit, fraud, risk or to verify identities, to monitor and predict market trends, to allow use by lenders for refining lending and fraud strategies, and for analysis such as loss forecasting.
CRAs carry out certain processing activities internally which support databases effectiveness and efficiencies. For example:
- Data loading: where data supplied to the CRAs is checked for integrity, validity, consistency, quality and age help make sure it’s fit for purpose. These checks pick up things like irregular dates of birth, names, addresses, account start and default dates, and gaps in status history.
- Data matching: where data supplied to the CRAs is matched to their existing databases to help make sure it’s assigned to the right person, even when there are discrepancies like spelling mistakes or different versions of a person’s name. CRAs use the personal data people give lenders together with data from other sources to create and confirm identities, which they use to underpin the services they provide.
- Data linking: as CRAs compile data into their databases, they create links between different pieces of data. For example, people who appear financially associated with each other may be linked together, and addresses where someone has previously lived can be linked to each other and to that person’s current address.
- Systems and product testing: data may be used to help support the development and testing of new products and technologies.
Each CRA has its own processes and standards for data loading, data matching and other database processing activities.
Other uses with your permission
From time to time CRAs may use the personal data they hold or receive about you for other purposes where you’ve given your consent.
Uses as required by or permitted by law
Your personal data may also be used for other purposes where required or permitted by law.
Each credit reference agency also has other lines of business not described in this document. For example, each offers its own marketing services and direct-to-consumer services. Each CRA will provide separate information as appropriate for any services that fall outside of scope of this document.
(b) WHAT IS A FRAUD PREVENTION AGENCY?
A Fraud Prevention Agency (FPA) collects, maintains and shares, data on known and suspected fraudulent activity. All three credit reference agencies also act as FPAs.
(c) FRAUD PREVENTION AGENCY PROCESSING
How data may be used by fraud prevention agencies:
FPAs may supply the data received from lenders and creditors about you, your financial associates and your business (if you have one) to other organisations (please see Section 5 for more information on these organisations). This may be used by them and the CRAs to:- Prevent crime, fraud and money laundering by, for example;
- Checking details provided on applications for credit and credit related or other products and services
- Managing credit and credit related accounts or products or services
- Cross-checking details provided on proposals and claims for all types of insurance
- Checking details on applications for jobs or as part of employment
- Verify your identity if you or your financial associate applies for facilities including all types of insurance proposals and claims
- Trace your whereabouts and recover debts that you owe
- Conduct other checks to prevent or detect fraud
- Undertake statistical analysis and system testing
- Your personal data may also be used for other purposes where you’ve given consent or where required or permitted by law
For further information and the ways in which Credit Reference Agencies use and share personal information, please visit them directly using the below:
CallCredit at www.callcredit.co.uk/crain
Equifax at www.equifax.co.uk/crain
Experian at www.experian.co.uk/crain