Maintaining a healthy credit profile is vital to getting the financial products you need. Yet, recent Which? research suggests that accessing and understanding your credit report is not as straightforward as you might expect.
Your credit report is essentially the ‘footprint’ left by your use of credit. The information it contains plays a big part in determining whether or not you can get a mortgage, loan or even a bank account.
Ordering your £2 credit report
Under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have a statutory right to access a copy of your credit report at a cost of £2 per credit reference agency.
We asked 81 people to order their £2 statutory reports from each of the three UK credit reference agencies – Callcredit, Equifax and Experian. Many encountered stumbling blocks at the outset, including glitches in online ordering systems, while understanding the reports also proved challenging.
Go further: What is a credit report? – we outline what information is contained in a credit report
Online access to your £2 credit report
If you want to view your Experian report online, you’ll have to wait for a passcode to be sent in the post. Both Equifax and Callcredit allow you to view your report online immediately, providing they can verify your identity.
However, accessing online credit reports with Callcredit proved virtually impossible. Of the 44 researchers who tried to do so, only two were successful.
Callcredit has since told us it had taken down its online system during the time when we were carrying out our research, in order to implement a more secure process, but this was not made clear to our researchers when they applied for their online report.
Understanding your credit report
For some, navigating the reports proved just as challenging as getting hold of them. Less than half of our researchers said seeing their statutory reports had given them a better understanding of their credit worthiness. Around a third thought there was too much jargon and confusing terminology used.
The overwhelming majority of people (95%) said they’d find it helpful if all three credit reference agencies used the same format for their statutory credit reports. Some 80% said they were expecting to see a numerical rating, but this doesn’t come with a statutory report.
Go further: How to improve your credit rating – we explain the factors that can affect your credit rating
Resolving credit report problems
Around a third of our researchers found a problem or entry they disputed on their credit report. In two cases (both Equifax), our researchers were told their issues couldn’t be resolved because they had ordered their reports more than 30 days before, despite Equifax subsequently telling us people have a right to query data on their report regardless of when it was obtained.
You can contact the lender or credit reference agency to correct a mistake. Agencies have 28 days from your request to tell you if it has removed the entry, amended it or taken no action.
Yet, Callcredit took 41 days to inform once researcher that it would be removing an incorrect linked address (18 days to request necessary information, and 23 days following that to notify what action it would be taking).
Go further: How to correct a mistake on your credit report – find out how to query an entry on your credit report