Credit bureaus to offer easy online access to credit reports


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Last July, the UK government pledged to work closely with credit reference agencies to make it easier for consumers to access their credit reports. A year later, on July 12, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced negotiations between industry and the government had been productive, and that obtaining a copy of a credit report will be simpler and less expensive for individuals in future.

Why should consumers check their credit reports?
The most important reason for consumers to check their credit reports is to ensure they are fully briefed on all the individual factors that influence their chances of obtaining credit, whether this be in the form of a credit card, personal loan or mortgage. Details that should be taken into consideration include any outstanding debts and any payments that have been missed in the past.

Consumers should also scrutinise their credit reports regularly to check for any mistakes. A Which? survey found that 16% of those polled had found an error when they checked their reports closely, suggesting the majority of consumers are running the risk of having their credit application turned down unnecessarily.

How will the new agreement help?
In response to the government's commitment to making credit reports more accessible to UK consumers, the three main credit agencies, namely Experian, Equifax and Callcredit, have agreed to release their records for the nominal sum of £2 when they receive an online request.

Previously, credit reports were only available for £2 when applied for by post, and they then took up to seven days to be delivered.

Furthermore, victims of ID fraud and the financially vulnerable will continue to have free access to their reports, and consumer minister Edward Davey believes these measures will give consumers greater control over their finances.

Indeed, Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith predicts consumers are now more likely to make use of the service in the wake of the changes made.

"This should provide a quicker and more convenient access for consumers to their credit file, and could encourage more people to check their file more regularly," he commented. "This is a welcome initiative in the battle against fraud and the elimination of faulty data."

Published: 16 July 2010