Page 3: Changes in legislation and political focus
Experian is licensed as a CRA by the Office of Fair Trading and is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office. The Data Protection Act 1998 governs how organisations can collect, use and share personal information. The Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives consumers specific rights in relation to the information CRAs hold about them. Complying with this and other relevant legislation is crucial to Experian's business.
Within Government, there is growing concern about the level of consumer debt. This is one of the reasons why the Consumer Credit Act is currently being updated. This will give consumers more rights regarding disputes with lenders and more protection from rogue lenders. There are also calls for lenders and other organisations to share more data through CRAs like Experian. The Government helped set up National Debtline in 1987. National Debtline is a free telephone helpline for consumers who are worried about debt. National Debtline now helps over 100,000 consumers every year. It is able to do this with financial support from Government and the credit industry, including Experian.
Data Protection Act
When the Data Protection Act was updated in 1998, it brought major changes for CRAs. This legislation meant that lenders could no longer use information about family members when deciding who they should give credit to. Experian had to change the way it provided credit report information to lenders and consumers. Lenders had to change their credit scoring systems and application forms. A division of Experian called Scorex helped many lenders update and improve their scoring systems. Consumers are now treated as individuals when they apply for credit, unless they have a financial link with someone they live with, such as a joint account.
Experian worked very closely with lenders, consumer organisations and the Government over the change in legislation. Experian used the opportunity to make it easier for consumers to get in touch. This included a new automated phone system and the facility for consumers to order and query their credit reports through its website. Experian publicised what the changes were and how consumers would be affected. This prevented many consumers from needing to contact the CRA to ask about the changes. Wherever possible, Experian goes beyond its legal obligations in the way it handles personal information and deals with consumers. The law gives Experian 28 days to respond to credit report queries, but it usually answers them within 10. Experian's Consumer Help Service liaises with lenders and other information providers on behalf of consumers to try to resolve any disputes as quickly as possible.