Credit information is central to outcomes for consumers and the harms StepChange sees as a free debt advice provider: gaps and weaknesses in credit information undermine the ability of firms to prevent unaffordable borrowing and/or intervene early to arrest debt spirals, while our research with clients shows how concerns about credit reporting contribute to anxiety and fear that prevents people from accessing help at the right time.
The FCA’s market study findings cast light on longstanding problems and we welcome its proposed remedies to create new governance arrangements to drive improvements in credit information, create a ‘core’ credit information dataset with mandated data sharing across CRAs to improve the quality and consistency of data, create new ‘arrangements flags’, and make it easier for consumers to access and correct credit information.
StepChange also supports the need for new governance arrangements for credit information but we have concerns about its specific proposals. Oversight of credit information should belong with a body that can consider evidence objectively, weigh competing perspectives and, where necessary, make decisions that are in the interests of consumers but not industry stakeholders. We have called on the FCA to work with partners to develop proposals that have the confidence of all stakeholders.