Getting turned down for a credit card or loan because of your credit history can be upsetting.
An error on your credit report could be very damaging
But occasionally the information that credit reference agencies hold about people can be wrong.
We asked for your experiences and this is what you had to say. This debate is now closed.
If the agencies are found to be at fault then they should pay punitive damages to make sure they suffer from administrative errors of their making.
Additionally they should check their facts before storing and using data.
Data subjects have no way of knowing what is held without going through hoops, and the reference agencies should be more open about how they operate.
Any negative data about an individual should be verified by alternative means before it is used.
Perhaps it isn't a significant problem in statistical terms, but to the affected individual it could easily be disproportionately expensive or disastrous.
All data holders should take full responsibility if something is found to be wrong, and it should be dealt with far more quickly than it is at present.
Following your informative programme and realising the power these credit agencies can have over our individual lives I attempted to correct misleading information on my credit report but was denied.
I was advised to contact the customer advice line which is open only on week days, but some of us work!
I dare not give up, or else I too shall unknowingly be in the same position as your caller regarding estate agency references.
When I was turned down for a 0% rate credit card in January 2005, I was surprised as I'd had excellent ratings and had never been turned down before.
So, I wrote to an agency asking for my credit file and found that all my debts had been doubled, as the agency had created two credit profiles for me, one under my house name, and another under my house number.
I wrote to them asking them to correct the mistake. They wrote back to say that lenders would only see one set of results depending on whether they looked under my house name or my house number.
But what happens when a lender does a credit check using both my house name and number, as many do?
They would then receive the erroneous duplicated debt information that I received and turn me down for any further credit.
I am still awaiting a response!
M Gray, Berkshire
I was shocked to learn how easily one's credit rating can be erroneously sullied, and how this can go unnoticed for so long.
Currently, individuals have to pay an administration fee to obtain a copy of their credit report and it's preposterous to expect anyone to request monthly copies just to keep tabs on their credit rating.
Before a significant change to a person's credit rating is processed it should be the duty of the credit ratings agency, as provider of the service, to inform the affected party.
But by failing to ensure proper measures are in place allowing individuals to contest changes to their credit rating, they are doing a disservice both to individuals and to the firms that rely on its ratings.
I had some problems with repayments when I became unemployed for an extended period a few years ago.
What my credit record now reflects is more a statement of how sympathetic or not creditors were, rather than a reflection of my actions or ability to pay.
A bank refused to answer my letters over their mistake. However, they managed to place a blemish on my clean credit rating with Equifax and refused to remove it even though fault on their side was demonstrated.
However, it was quickly removed when they were told that they were not in the running to provide me with a new mortgage because of their registration.
There needs to be more protection for consumers where a registration is under dispute.
Perhaps disputed registrations should be withdrawn until the case is proven with a regulator either way? Innocent until proven guilty? Fair and impartial hearing?
Credit reference agencies should inform people when credit is applied for, as this will alert people if there is any fraud taking place in their name and allow fraudulent activity to be detected earlier.
They should also inform people if any lender provides any negative data against their name and therefore allow a person to contest the information.
I had a situation where a mobile phone provider tried to refer me to a credit reference agency over an unpaid bill of $0.
Thankfully, the credit reference agency declined the referral.
The only way to prevent these sort of shambles occurring is for regulatory obligations to be placed upon the credit reference agencies and the referrers to advise of bad debt referral to the individual concerned to ensure accuracy.
If the debt has been paid in full then there are no grounds for the referral and hence the referral should be declined by the agency.
Until strict regulatory framework is put in place then the only thing people can do is run checks on themselves.
Credit reference agencies are completely unaccountable yet they trade and exchange personal information that the consumer has no control over.
I have never understood why it is not possible to sue for libel where credit reference agencies have passed on inaccurate information that has caused distress or inconvenience to the consumer concerned.
I had problems when a council registered me as living at the wrong address for a few months (same postcode and house number but different part of the development) and the credit agencies used the wrong address for that period.
Therefore, when I said I had lived at the same address for 10 years (which I had) I had no current credit history.
I missed out on a good rate for savings because of it.
I had no idea that this had happened until I got my record from Equifax and discovered the mistake. I am very cross.
My wife and I were denied a credit card because an address had been registered with Experian in our name at which we had never lived.
It turned out to be an error by another credit card company which after some time and a bit of hassle, they rectified.
When we re-applied for the credit card, we were again rejected, even though the offending address had been removed.
When the card company did a manual check of our application they then granted us a credit card.
The card company that made the mistake eventually paid our expenses and some compensation.
I had a problem when a finance company wrongly indicated that I had defaulted on an HP agreement.
It claimed it was an administrative error, but it still took me weeks to get it sorted out. I believe this to be libellous.
Why is it a libel? Well the information is published and used as an indicator of my character. This kind of information can seriously damage you financially by limiting your access to products.
The government should take action to make companies accountable for errors financially or they will never get things right.
I have had exactly the same experience. I bought a lens from a well-known high street camera chain and at the end of the interest-free period I paid off the outstanding amount.
Years later I applied for a loan and was refused.
The uphill battle to get the mark cleared was not worth the effort in my case. Who keeps receipts and bank statements four years after the event?
Even more frustrating was that the black mark was over the paltry sum of £130.
Credit history is essential for both companies and consumers.
However, it is worrying to see how much difference there is between credit files from different reference agencies.
It would be far better if there was only one agency with tighter controls which provided free annual reports to all consumers. This would improve accuracy and help regulate the contents of the reports.
These privately owned credit reference agencies such as Experian and Equifax hold far too much power over our lives.
If you get a default notice on a loan - even if this is reported in error by a bank, loan or card company - it can stay on your record for 6 years.
It can take months or longer to get these agencies to remove the offending data.
I decided to check my credit history a few years ago, just out of curiosity.
Much to my amazement there were a series of arrears noted, all of zero.
What had happened was that I had purchased an item from a catalogue but couldn't be bothered with making periodic payments so paid the whole amount up front.
Obviously the catalogue company couldn't cope with this and listed my non-payment of instalments as arrears of zero.
What gets me about these references is: if someone had a poor track record, then clears it and is presently financially sound, he is still listed as a risk for many years.
Some of my friends who are fairly well-off have no credit or credit cards, have found it difficult to get the best deals on mortgages.
It ceases to serve the purpose of its intentions.
I recently tried to buy a computer online. My application was rejected, no reason given.
I have never had any financial problems. I am not in debt, pay off my one credit card by standing order each month, keep my bank balance in credit and receive a very comfortable salary.
Could it be that I am single, living in rented accommodation, and a nurse by profession?
The company did not have the decency to tell me but directed me elsewhere. Apart from feeling shocked and hurt by their rejection of my money, it feels so grubby!
I recently applied for a credit card and was turned down as a poor credit risk. I have no loans except a mortgage that is almost paid off. I have a good job. My wife works.
We have one credit card that is paid off every month, and we have lived in the same property for the last 27 years. So to be called a poor credit risk came as quite a shock!
I applied to Equifax for a copy of my credit record and was amazed to find a default payment of £38 raised by a mobile phone company.
I used to have a mobile but the company was bought out by another, and then I moved to a third one.
All my payments were taken by direct debit. How can you be in default when payments are taken by direct debit and the account is always in the black?
The situation has still not been resolved, and Experian also shows the £38 default.
I sent off for details of my information at Equifax only to discover that unknown people had been registered against my address over the last 10 years, despite the fact that I had owned the property from new.
It turns out that the confusion was caused by a subtle change in the postcode that hasn't been noted by Equifax, and the details of people from a nearby set of flats has been included. Somewhat worrying.
I paid my phone bill in full, but they referred a debt which did not exist to a debt collection agency in Scotland.
After some considerable trouble, including threats of court action, this was resolved when I sent a copy of my bank statement to the debt collector.
No apology was sent despite my letters to that company. And this now shows on my records with Equifax even though I did nothing wrong.
A similar thing happened to me, but what really incenses me is how heavily weighted the current set-up is to lenders at the expense of customers.
Why is it that only consumers get penalised by bad credit files? Why aren't companies hit with black marks when they make costly and stress inducing mistakes?
I would like the FSA impose stringent fines and other penalties on those firms that act in such a cavalier manner with people's lives.
In the case outlined above, shouldn't we have the right to sue companies for damage to our credit standing in the same way that we have the right to sue for defamation of character or libel?
As a start, firms should be legally obliged to inform customers of their intention to enter adverse data on a credit file.
I made a first payment on a new mortgage in 2002, which was misplaced by the lender which immediately put a black mark on my credit history.
I only found out when I applied for a credit card. There was a formal apology, but precious little interest from the lender when sorting it out.
I certainly think people should be informed when their records are marked in this way.
My problem is not errors, but rather that I do not seem to have any credit history, despite holding a number of credit cards for a number of years.
My payments have always been on time, yet none of this shows on my credit history, and I always have problems when credit checks are needed.
It seems as though some lenders do not report positive data to credit agencies, just bad debt.
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