Which? has received calls from concerned members following recent headlines suggesting people are being turned away for home COVID-19 test kits due to a poor credit history – but does your credit score really have a bearing on the process?
The government has enlisted credit reference agency TransUnion to provide identity verification checks as part of the registration process for providing a home coronavirus testing kit, but states this is not a credit check and will not affect your credit score.
Here, Which? explains what credit reports are being used for in the coronavirus testing process, and what the alternatives are if you’re refused a home testing kit.
- Read the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?
Why is the government checking your credit report?
As part of its guidance on coronavirus testing privacy information, the government sets out the personal data it collects from each person who is tested, or who applies to be tested, for coronavirus in the UK.
This includes things like your name, gender, date of birth, ethnicity, home and delivery address, National Insurance number, employment details and details about other household members if you are applying for a test for them as well.
The Department of Health and Social Care has also enlisted other companies to use this data to do things such as sort out the logistics of test deliveries, and enable NHS Business Services Authority to send you your test results.
Credit reference agency TransUnion has been brought in as a means to use your personal data to verify your identity, by checking it against the credit report it has registered to you.
Why is this necessary? A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care told Which?: ‘For home testing kits, a verification process is used to confirm an individual’s name and address, which is to reduce fraud and prevent multiple testing kits being ordered, diverting capacity from where it is needed most.’
- Find out more: credit reports explained
Could your credit report mean you can’t get a coronavirus test?
Those with a ‘bad’ credit score after having problems with debt may have experienced rejections for a mortgage, credit card or loan due to lenders seeing them in a poor light, this shouldn’t be the case with securing a coronavirus home test.
According to the government spokesperson, ‘nobody needs to pass a credit check in order to access coronavirus testing.’
However, you do need to appear on the credit reference agency’s system.
One Which? member got in touch to say he was concerned as, despite his daughter being on the electoral roll and having a UK current account, they hadn’t previously been able to find much of a credit presence for her.
They were therefore worried that she might be refused a home coronavirus test in future, should she need one.
It’s a valid concern. Experian (the largest credit reference agency in the UK) has estimated that 5.8bmillion people in the UK have a ‘thin’ credit file, where credit reference agencies simply don’t hold any information on you.
This is likely to be down to not having any history of borrowing money and could mean your identity is unable to be verified. This, then, could mean you won’t be able to get a home testing kit.
- Find out more: how to improve your credit score
What’s the difference between a ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ credit check?
In order to verify people’s identity for a coronavirus home test kit, a soft search is carried out.
This allows the information on your credit file to be viewed without leaving a ‘footprint’ (a record of the search), which can impact your credit score. You’ll be able to see a record of the search, but no other companies viewing your credit report will.
A ‘hard search’, by comparison, will leave a record to others viewing your credit report, and may damage your credit score if, say, a potential lender has viewed your report and rejected your application for credit.
- To find out more about how credit reference agencies work, see our longform investigation: credit scoring – are you in the dark?
What are your options if you’re denied a home COVID-19 test?
In some instances, you won’t be able to get a home testing kit sent out – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get tested for coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Social Care outlined several other options that don’t require checking your credit report: ‘Tests can also be booked by calling 119 and people can access testing and in-person testing sites, where a member of staff will confirm their identity in person.’
Alternatively, a number of high street pharmacy chains have been selling private COVID-19 tests to the public, costing from £40 upwards.
However, there are important caveats to bear in mind for what these tests can tell you, and who they may be suitable for – our dedicated article on coronavirus home test kits explains everything you need to know.