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What is credit rating?

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Before a bank, building society or other lender decides whether to lend you money or give you credit to buy an item they will usually look at your credit file or credit record first. This file contains all your borrowing history from the previous six years. The rating you get depends on this information and is different for each person; different lenders may give you different ratings. The lender will use the rating they give you to decide if you should get a loan or form of credit from them.

Why does the lender do this?

They are trying to calculate the risk of lending to you based on your borrowing record. You may not get credit or be charged a higher interest rate if your file shows you have had problems paying for credit.

What is in my file?

Your file contains details of all the money you have borrowed or credit agreements you have had over the last six years including how much you owe, whether you have been late with repayments, if you have ever had a default. If you are bankrupt this would also show on your file.

Can I see my file?

You have the right under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and Data Protection Act 1998 to know what information an agency holds about you. The information can be requested at any time, and you do not have to have made an application for credit first.

How do I get a copy of my file?

You should write to the credit reference agency asking for a copy of any information held about you. Alternatively, you may be able to apply on-line.

There is a statutory charge to pay, which can be paid by cheque or postal order in the case of postal applications. Some credit reference agencies may offer an enhanced report at a higher price, giving additional information or a faster response time. However, they must still provide, on request, all the information which they hold about you for the statutory fee.

You should give as much information as possible to help the agency trace the file, giving your full name and address, date of birth, and any previous address(es) in the last six years. If you run a business, you should also give its exact name and address because separate information may be held about you at that address. The credit reference agency may need to ask you for further details in order to locate the file.

The credit reference agency must either tell you it has no information, or send a copy of the file and a statement of your rights. This statement will describe in detail how to have the file corrected. A copy of the file must be sent to you within seven working days of the agency receiving your request. If you do not receive a copy of the file within seven working days, or do not receive a response to a subsequent query within 28 days, you can complain to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Default - ‘Default’ is a term used to describe a credit account where the relationship between you and the lender has broken down. This occurs when the account is in serious arrears.

At some point whilst the account is in arrears (most lenders make this decision on a case by case basis) the lender may issue a Default Notice, formally requesting that the arrears are repaid or in some cases demanding the full outstanding balance of the account.

The lender should give you 28 days to comply with this request. If you do not comply with the Default Notice within the required timescale, the lender may start legal proceedings to recover the debt and may register a Default with the credit reference agencies.

Myths about credit files

  • There is NO such thing as a credit blacklist. Just because one lender has turned you down does not mean you will not get credit from another.
  • You cannot ‘fix’ your credit file and should be wary of any company that says they can do this for you. The credit reference agencies cannot remove factually correct information from your file. If you think the information is incorrect then you can ask them to remove it.

The contact details of the main credit reference agencies are:

Experian Limited
Consumer Help Service;
PO Box 9000        
Nottingham NG80 7WF
Tel: 0870 241 6212   Website: www.experian.co.uk

Equifax plc Credit File Advice Centre
PO Box 1140
Bradford BD1 5US
Tel: 0870 010 0583   Website: www.equifax.co.uk

Callcredit plc
PO Box 491
Leeds   LS3 1WZ
Tel: 0870 060 1414   Website: www.callcredit.co.uk