One in five people who check their credit report find an error, new research from Which? reveals.
The consumer champion surveyed more than 1,000 people to establish their understanding of credit reports and scores, and uncovered a significant number of people finding errors in their reports, many of which went uncorrected.
The survey also found widespread confusion among the public about what information is recorded in credit reports, and how this is used.
The findings come as the Financial Conduct Authority carries out a review of the credit information market, amid concerns regarding the purpose, quality and accessibility of credit information, how easily it is understood by consumers and how it impacts on their behaviour.
Which? found that four in 10 people (38%) have never checked their credit report. Of those, more than half (51%) said they didn’t feel their report or score was relevant to them.
A third (32%) of those surveyed mistakenly believed they would be charged a fee to check their report, and another third (32%) thought checking too frequently would negatively impact their credit score.
Checking your credit report is free, and checking it cannot damage your credit score. Familiarity with your report makes it easier to identify errors or fraudulent applications, both of which could reduce your chances of accessing the best credit deals.
Of those that have checked their credit report, one in five (20%) found an error such as an incorrect address, false record of missed payments, or a credit product fraudulently taken out in their name. Of those that found an error, just over one in five (22%) did not seek for it to be corrected.
Which? also found confusion around the role that credit reference agencies (CRAs) play in whether a credit application is accepted or rejected. More than half (54%) incorrectly thought credit reference agencies – the main ones being Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – can influence the outcome of an application.
Half of those surveyed (51%) thought every CRA holds the same information on you, but not every lender will share information with every CRA, meaning your report and score will vary between CRAs.
The most common myth is that a credit blacklist exists, with eight in 10 people (79%) believing you can be banned from borrowing.
Every lender carries out its own assessment before approving or rejecting an application using its own criteria, meaning you may be accepted by one lender but rejected by another, even if both are looking at the same credit report.
One fifth (20%) of those surveyed have been rejected for a credit product in the past year, and of those, nearly a quarter (22%) were surprised as they thought they had a good credit score.
Consumers also displayed a lack of understanding over what information is included in a credit report.
A third (32%) of people didn’t know that being on the electoral roll was recorded in a credit report, and nearly three quarters (72%) of those surveyed incorrectly thought council tax arrears were included in a credit report. Four in 10 also thought their salary (42%) and savings (41%) were included.
In fact, just two of the 1,105 people surveyed were able to correctly identify all the information included in a credit report from the options provided.
Jenny Ross, Editor of Which? Money, said:
“Credit reports help to give people more clarity over their financial health. However, our findings suggest that many are still in the dark about how their reports are compiled and used, potentially harming their ability to access credit in the future.
“Credit reference agencies and lenders must work harder to demystify the world of credit reports and scores – for example, by giving clear and constructive advice if an application is rejected, so prospective borrowers can take steps to improve their chances of being accepted in the future.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 1,105 members of the public between 9 and 11 August 2019. Data was weighted to be nationally representative of UK adults aged 18+.
- How to check your credit score for free: https://www.which.co.uk/money/credit-cards-and-loans/credit-scores/how-to-check-your-credit-score-for-free-avgzx7h867dp
- How to improve your credit score: https://www.which.co.uk/money/credit-cards-and-loans/credit-scores/how-to-improve-your-credit-score-ax7ub4b69tcs